The sitter was a highly influential and distinguished figure in his day. Shown here at the age of 78, he was formerly Frederik Hendrik of Orange's tutor and minister at the court of Prince Maurits. He became a spokesman for, and later leader of the Remonstrants, and was an outspoken champion of religious tolerance. Such was the violence of the disagreement between his group and the counter remonstrants that he had to flee the country in 1618 and was banished shortly thereafter. He returned in secret once the situation had calmed down in 1626, and moved back to The Hague in 1629. Rembrandt painted his portrait in 1633, and etched this likeness two years later. It was his first official portrait and may have been commissioned by the sitter or one of his supporters, as the painting was. It was clearly meant to be distributed amongst his followers.