It is not known where Pieter Pourbus trained, but acording 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: to design the decorations for the triumphal entry into Bruges of Crown Prince Phillip of Spain. In addition to the civic work, Pourbus was a first-rate portrait painter and a pioneer in the genre of the group portrait.
The present work seems likely to be among a number of portraits painted during the last decade of his life depicting Bruges citizens. 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 pendant portraits of a young man and his wife of 1574, in the collection of Michael Hornstein, Montreal (see P. Huvenne, Pierre Pourbus, 1984, pp. 243-6, no. 26); and Portrait of a Woman, in the Koninklijk Museum, Antwerp, inv. no. 5015.