Balthasar Denner was born in a Mennonite family in the city of Altona, at the time part of the Danish Kingdom (nowadays part of Hamburg). In 1696 the family moved to Danzig, where Denner began his career as a miniaturist and in 1707 he became a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. During his lifetime he travelled extensively and worked for several European courts. He was internationally acclaimed for his half-length portraits and head studies, depicted with a meticulous handling of the brush and a remarkable eye for physiognomy and the effects of growing old.
It has been suggested that his painting of Saint Jerome in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, might depict the same model.