Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, the son of Emperor Ferdinand II, was one of the most important figures in the realpolitik of mid-17th-century Europe. In 1639, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Armies in the Thirty Years' War, a post he held with varying degrees of success until his appointment in 1646 as governor of the Spanish Netherlands. He returned to Vienna in 1656 to act as advisor to his nephew, the Emperor Leopold I. In addition to his political role, Leopold Wilhelm was one of the greatest art collectors of his day and founder of the Gemäldergalerie of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. His interest focused on Netherlandish and Italian painting of the 15th and 16th centuries. His court painter from 1651 onward was David Teniers the Younger, and he acquired works directly from Jacob Jordaens and Peter Paul Rubens.
The present painting is a sketch for a full-length portrait in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.