Bartholomeus van der Helst was born in Haarlem around 1613, the son of an innkeeper. He probably received his training in Amsterdam under the portrait painter Nicolaes Elisaz. Pickenoy, whose influence is reflected in his early work. His earliest dated painting is from 1637. The year before, he had married Anna du Pire in Amsterdam. The young artist must have attained fame very quickly, for in 1639 he was commissioned by the Kloveniers' Guild for the militia painting 'The Civic Guard Led by Captain Roelof Bicker and Lieutenant Jan Michielsz. Blaeuw' (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum). After completing the work in 1642, Van der Helst became the favourite portraitist of Amsterdam society, a position he maintained until his death. He became known far beyond Amsterdam: although he mainly painted for that city's patricians, he received the commission to portray the English queen Henrietta Maria in 1652. In the following years, he produced large-format militia and ruling family pictures as well as single and double portraits. Van der Helst was buried on 16 December 1670 in the Walloon Church in Amsterdam. He owed his high renown not only to his unusually lifelike depiction of his subjects but also to the extremely imposing effect of his portraits. Proud, elegant poses, luxurious details, and an unusual ability to render precious fabrics made him a sought-after portraitist of high society. Even in his few genre scenes, it is the figures that dominate. For the architectural backgrounds of his portraits, he worked in his final years with Ludolf Backhuysen. Except for his son Lodewijk van der Helst, no pupils are known by name. Nevertheless, he exercised an important influence on his contemporaries, especially Abraham van den Tempel, Nicolaes van Helt Stockade and Paulus Hennekyn.