It is not known where Pieter Pourbus trained, but according to Van Mander, he settled in Bruges at an early age, registering as a foreign master in the Guild of St. Luke in 1543. He quickly emerged as one of the foremost artists in the city and received his first important commission in 1549 from the Bruges magistrates, A Triumphal Entry into Bruges of Crown Prince Philip of Spain. In addition to civic work, Pourbus was a first-rate portrait painter and a pioneer of the group portrait.
The present work seems likely to be among a number of portraits from the last decade of his life depicting Bruges citizens, and though it has not been possible to identify the sitter, the alabaster-like smoothness of Pourbus' technique, and the high quality of execution lead to comparisons with a pair of portraits of a young man and his wife of 1574, in the collection of Michal Hornstein, Montreal (see P. Huvenne, Pierre Pourbus, 1984, pp. 243-6, no. 26); and to Portrait of a Woman, in the Koninklijk Museum, Antwerp, Inv. no. 5015.