After his initial training in Antwerp van Somer travelled extensively and is recorded in Leiden between 1612-14, The Hague in 1615, and in Brussels in 1616. It was during this time that he was employed by the Brabant Chambres des Comptes to paint portraits of the Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella. By December 1616 he had settled in London. He arrived in England at a time when Henry, Prince of Wales, and his mother, Queen Anne of Denmark, were bringing about a revolution in artistic taste and it is thought that van Somer became official painter to the Queen. Whilst elements of his compositions show the influence of Robert Peake and Marcus Gheeraerts II, his technique is closer to early 17th century Antwerp painting.
The medal on the sitter's gold chain shows a portrait, in profile, of Archduke Matthias of Austria (1557-1619). Matthias reigned as King of Hungary from 1608-1619 (as Matthias II), as King of Bohemia from 1611-1617, and as Holy Roman Emperor from 1612-1619.