Completed in 1622, Banqueting House had been the stage for many of the court masques devised by Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones during James’s reign, and building, spectacle and decoration combined to provide an awesome display of regal authority and power. The paintings themselves are great iconographical works, showing James as Solomon, as Christ in Judgement, and being guided by Justice up to heaven respectively.3 James’s depiction as Solomon, the great biblical judge and lawmaker, derived from his belief that the law was an expression of the divine right, and could be altered at his pleasure: ‘“Kings are properly judges,” he was to pronounce, “and judgement properly belongs to them from God.”’4 James actively encouraged his courtiers to think of him as the new Solomon, and they happily acquiesced:
So wrote Bishop Montague in his preface to James’s Workes of 1616. While this portrayal of the king as a contemporary Solomon speaks volumes regarding his self-image and his ability to make his inner circle cede to his wishes, the panel showing James as Christ in Judgement, generally called ‘The Benefits of the Government of James I’, seems to be a direct reflection of his chosen method of self-promotion. In this panel we find an image which, for Roy Strong, ‘represents James in his spoken and written pronouncements […] in exactly the same way James is glorified on the title page of his Workes’, namely that of Mercury striking down discord.6 Strong argues that the central panel, in which James is accompanied to heaven by Justice, is not only the ‘climax to the whole ceiling’, but that ‘in no other part, I believe, is the King’s book, the Basilikon Doron, followed so closely.’7 These conclusions should come as no surprise, however. Where else would an artist and his boss turn when asked to immortalise the late king than James’s selfimage: a self-image largely created and projected through three texts, his Basilikon Doron, his Workes, and perhaps his most lasting contribution to the religious and literary sensibilities of his country, the Authorised or King James Bible (KJB).