Hofstede de Groot wrote the first comprehensive study on the artist in 1892 (C. Hofstede de Groot, 'Joan van Noordt', Oud Holland 10, 1892, pp. 210-18) and his study remains essential to an understanding of the life and work of Jan van Noordt. Among the archival records that Hoofstede de Groot unearthed was the registration of the death of van Noordt's mother in 1641, which provides evidence of his birth date as 1624. Later, in 1648, a certain Joan van Noordt acted as a witness for the will of the painter Abraham van den Tempel, the son of Lambert Jacobsz in Leiden, suggesting that van Noordt was active for a short time in Leiden. In the 1660s, the artist is mentioned several times in Amsterdam. Between 1664 and 1669, Houbraken lists a Johannes Voorhout from Gouda (Uithoorn 1647-1723 Amsterdam) as a student of Jan van Noordt (Houbraken, vol. III, p. 224).
There are additional references to him throughout the early 1670s, including a rather mysterious scandal involving his brother in 1670 and a record of van Noordt empowering the wine merchant Pieter van Hartochveld to collect his debts. On 30 April 1675, the artist vanished from his house on the Egelantiersgracht and it is believed that he left Amsterdam to escape his creditors, leaving many of his drawings behind. The inventory of his estate, drawn up two days later, is the last document on Jan van Noordt.
In the face of such sparse biographical data, it is not surprising that so little is known about van Noordt's training as an artist. He is considered part of Rembrandt's circle and his paintings have been variously attributed to Ferdinand Bol, Gerbrand van der Eeckhout and Nicolaes Maes. His earliest dated works are two etchings, one of which (1644) recalls a composition by Pieter van Laer; the other (1645), a work by Pieter Lastman. In his survey of van Noordt's paintings, Sumowski has indicated the influence of Jacob-Adriaensz Backer, as well as the Fleming Jacob Jordaens. For Sumowski, the Backer connection is the most pronounced (an idea stressed as early as 1926 by Kurt Bauch, according to whom van Noordt continues Backer's late style, elaborating on models such as The Crowning of Mirtillo and Venus and Adonis).
Dudok van Heel has suggested that Jan van Noordt played a part in the bankruptcy of the art dealer Gerard Uylenburgh (Dudok van Heel, 1982, p. 90, note 54). Gerard was the son of Hendrick Uylenburgh, Rembrandt's business mentor and founder of the Rembrandt Academy. Gerard, however, was not as successful as his father, and an accusation of selling forged paintings led to his bankruptcy. In 1675, Gerard left hurriedly for England and it is possible that van Noordt may have accompanied him.
The half-length portraits by van Noordt which have survived mostly date from the latter part of his career, in the 1660s.
Each canvas displays a picture space bathed in reflected light, and is characterized by a soft modeling in the hands. As Sumowski notes, the form of the hand almost always identifies a work by Jan van Noordt, as in the Saint John the Evangelist (private Dutch collection) and his Portrait of a Boy, 1665 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon). One can also detect the influence of Van Dyck, and particularly his English manner, in this portrait. Naturally, Van Dyck was the dominant exponent of the international portrait style of the mid-seventeenth century and northern artists, most notably Peter Lely, were profoundly influenced by him. It remains an intriguing possibility that this picture was painted by van Noordt in England where this courtly style of portraiture was most in demand.