First portrait series
The portrait of Jan Moretus belongs to the first series of twelve works that Balthasar I Moretus commissioned from Rubens. This series was painted – according to the accounts – between 1613 and 1616.
Jan Moretus was the son-in-law of Christophe Plantin. Plantin did not have a son himself. Under the terms of his will, the Officina Plantiniana (‘The Golden Compass’) in Antwerp went to Jan Moerentorf, alias Moretus (1543-1610). Moerentorf had married Martina Plantin in 1570.
How did Jan Moretus meet his future bride? He started work at the press at the age of fourteen , as an assistant in the bookshop. After his marriage, Moretus became Plantin’s right-hand man and favourite son-in-law. Self-taught, he had a remarkable knowledge of languages. He translated Lipsius’ philosophical work De Constantia among others. Above all, he remained a hard-working businessman who ran the printing house from 1589 until his death in 1610.