Eberhart Caspersen Keilhau was born at Elsinore in Denmark, the son of a German painter of modest ability from Meissen and his Dutch wife. After six years of training in Denmark, Keilhau was able, through his mother's contacts, to gain a position in Rembrandt's studio in Amsterdam, in which he spent two years (1642-4). He subsequently worked for the prominent dealer Hendrick Uylenburgh for three years, and then ran his own shop in Amsterdam there for four years, before travelling to Italy. He arrived in Venice in 1651, moved to Bergamo in 1654 for a number of months, and sojourned briefly in Milan before setting out for Rome. There, in 1657, despite the plague which had infested the city since the previous summer, Keilhau settled definitively, marrying and converting to Catholicism.
Heimbuerger, op. cit. suggests that the present picture was probably painted during Keil's brief period in Bergamo and points out that a set of scales featured in the arms of the prominent Bergamask family Pesenti, may provide a clue for the interpretation of the enigmatic subject.