This painting compositionally follows closely, but not precisely, that of the head and shoulders detail in the full-length portrait of Phillip II by Antonis Mor (c.1516-c.1576) in the Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial. Stylistically, however, this version is closer to the work of Alonso Sanchez Coello (1531-1588). Both painters were employed at the court of Phillip II in Spain both having been together in Flanders. On Mor’s departure from the court Coello became one of the King’s preferred portraitists and this small panel portrait clearly demonstrates his influence.
As Catholic husband to Queen Mary many supporters in England hoped this would lead to a reversal to that faith. Possibly for this reason this painting was, in the past, in the possession of the Howards, one of the most powerful English Catholic families.