The Infanta was born in 1566 to Philip II of Spain and his third wife Elisabeth of Valois. She married Archduke Albert in 1598, and assumed with him joint sovereignty of the Spanish Netherlands until his death in 1621. In the following year she became a tertiary of the Franciscan Order, as she is represented here, and remained Governor of the Netherlands until her death in 1633. Both Rubens and Van Dyck painted the Archduchess in similar costume, and the present work is closer to Van Dyck's portrait, though it is conceivable that it may be based on another version by Rubens, now lost. This idea may be supported by the existence of engravings allegedly based on a lost Rubens prototype.
The artist, Jan van den Hoecke, was a pupil of Rubens. He traveled to Rome in 1637, spending the next seven years there, where he enthusiastically absorbed the influence of Reni and Domenichino and was a keen observer of classical antiquity. Van den Hoecke next entered the service of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in Vienna and in Brussels, and his style reflects more closely Rubens' of 1610-20 than it does the master's virtuoso late style. Van den Hoecke's technique can best be described as a synthesis of the contemporary Italian classicizing trends and the lessons learned in Rubens' studio.