Goeddert Hittorp was a leading academic and civic figure in mid sixteenth century Cologne. He studied in Paris and back in Germany made a name for himself as a respected literary scholar and theologian, culminating in his appointment as director of the University of Cologne in 1540. He was a also a successful book dealer. At the same time, he is recorded as a secretary of the town council in 1533, a full member by 1542 and then, fifteen years later, as Cologne's Bürgermeister.
These portraits served to commemorate his wedding in 1547 to Gertrud von Bergen who was more than thirty years his junior. The carnation she holds, the removal of gloves to reveal their rings and the prominence of the coats-of-arms (probably painted by a different specialist hand), all allude to the pictures' function. Their formal nature is entirely typical of Barthel Bruyn's mature style. After 1539 he was strongly influenced by Hans Holbein and the direct mode of depicting these sitters can be seen in virtually all his other portraits of the 1540s (see, for example, the Portraits of Heinrich and Helena Salburg, from 1549, in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne).
These compositions are recorded by virtue of prints that have been published as copies after lost originals (see H. Westhoff-Krummacher, Barthel Bruyn der Ältere, Munich, 1965, pp. 136-7, nos. 56-7).