Hendrick Berckman was a pupil of Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert (1613-1654) and Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) in Antwerp and trained under Philips Wouwerman (1619-1668) in Haarlem. In 1652 he was appointed painter to Prince Hendrick of Nassau in Hulst. Two years later he moved to Leiden where he became a member of the Guild of St. Luke. Although he has painted other subjects, Berckman is best known for his portraits of eminent men. He usually showed the sitter in three-quarter-length with the right hand resting on his waist and the left hand on a baton or weapon, as can be seen in the present lot. His sitters are treated with an austere realism and some of his later portraits, in many cases being official commissions, have a complex composition, displaying drapery and a background window showing a view over distant sea and ships. Among his prominent naval sitters were Vice-Admirals Michiel Adriaensz. de Ruyter (one of the versions of his portrait is in the Stedelijk Museum, Vlissingen) and Adriaen Banckert (1673, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).
Berckman portrayed Michiel de Ruyter on several occasions between 1655 and 1675. His portraits can be found in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. He painted Michiel together with his wife Anna van Gelder twice, in 1660 (Stedelijk Museum Vlissingen) and in 1668 (the present pair).