Daniel Mytens was the main court painter to the English Crown before the arrival of van Dyck in 1632. He seems to have been influenced by the style of van Mierevelt in Delft and van Ravesteyn in The Hague. He arrived in England in 1618 and received many portrait commissions from the English aristocracy, among whom were the Duke and Duchess of Arundel and he became Court Portrait painter to the Crown in 1622. By 1625, Charles I was his main patron whom he served until 1632 when he was replaced by van Dyck.
The present composition is believed to have been painted in 1626, possibly for an English patron, when Mytens travelled to the Low Countries to absorb current fashions in European portraiture. It was at this time he met Frederik Hendrik (1584-1647), Stadholder and Prince of Orange, who had succeeded his half-brother, Maurice in 1625. He was the first Stadholder to become involved in the patronage of the arts on a grand scale and he was assisted in this by his secretary Constantijn Huygens the Elder, one of Holland's greatest humanists. Under Frederik Hendrik's auspices, his half-brother Prince Johan Maurits, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, became the governor of Fort Frederik Hendrik, the new Dutch capital in Brazil, as depicted in Frans Post's landscape of 1640, sold, Sotheby's, New York, 19 May 1994, lot 71 (private collection, Venezuela).
In the present painting Prince Frederik Hendrik is portrayed as a military commander. The Prince had a very successful career fighting the Spanish and in 1621 war erupted once again. The Dutch armies were fighting to expel the invading forces and Frederik Hendrik conquered s'Hertogenbosch in 1629. Three years later he seized Maastricht and in 1637 he recaptured Breda. However, his attempts to carry the war deep into the Southern provinces and to take Antwerp proved unsuccessful.
The present painting was not included in Lord Northwick's extensive sale of most of his paintings and objets d'art that took place in 1859 over twenty-two days. Although some of the works were bought back by the successor to the title, George Rushout Bowles (1881-1887), and taken back to Northwick Park, many of the best were sold out of the family. Masterpieces of the collection included Moretto's altarpiece of The Virgin and Child with Saint Bernardino and other Saints, Francesco Francia's Portrait of Bartolomeo Bianchini, Raphael's Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Botticelli's Portrait of a young man, Beccafumi's Tanaquil and Marcia, Annibale Carracci's Domine, Quo Vadis, an early Madonna and Child by Lorenzo di Credi (all National Gallery, London), Salvator Rosa's Phryne tempting Xenocrates (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Piero di Cosimo's Pugliese Altar (Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri), Annibale Carracci's River Landscape and Bacchiacca's Flagellation (both National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).