The present painting is a work executed by Jan Lievens after his return to the Northern Netherlands in 1644. His abiity to adapt to the fashionable classicizing taste attracted many patrons and he received a number of important commissions from this time on. In Amsterdam he supplied two painting for the new Stadhuis (now the Royal Palace) on the Dam and in The Hague, he provided decorations for the Oranjezaal in the Huis ten Bosch. He was also in demand as a portraitist and painted many of the leading figures in Dutch society.
This painting of Admiral Maerten Harpertsz. Tromp is an excellent example of his portraiture of this period. It is a posthumous portrait, probably painted around 1660. Sumowski suggests that it was painted at the same time as the portrait of the Admiral now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, which accompanies a portrait of Tromp’s third wife Cornelia Teding van Berckhout. The major difference between the two paintings is that the pose of the Admiral’s body is more or less in reverse in the Amsterdam picture whilst his head faces in the same direction. This would be explained by the fact that Jan Lievens was using his drawing of the head of the Admiral, which is now in the British Museum, for both compositios.
Having been appointed Lieutenant Admiral of Holland in 1636, Admiral Maerten Harpertsz. Tromp was the highest ranking sea commander under the Stadholder during the wars with Spain and England in the first half of the seventeenth century. In the Battle of the Downs he defeated the Spanish Armada in spite of being heavily outnumbered by their fleet. After this victory Spanish power at sea began to wane. He was knighted by Louis XIII of France in 1640 as well as by Charles I of England in 1642. Tromp was killed in a battle off Terheide near Scheveningen in 1653.