Jan van Malderen (1563-1633) was born in Louvain, where he earned his doctorate in Theology in 1594 and two years later became a professor at the famous university. In 1611 he was appointed fifth Bishop of Antwerp, where he died the same year as his protector, the Infanta Archduchess Isabel Clara Eugenia. He promoted religious life, favouring the Carmelites and the Beguines, and published many theological works in defence of the Catholic doctrine as opposed to Protestant positions: He likewise commented on the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinus. On several occasions he gave stained glass windows to churches in Antwerp.
Traditionally, the portrait of the prelate, which is housed in the Antwerp Royal Fine Arts Museum (117 x 94 cm), having come from the Episcopal palace, was considered to be an original work from which other known versions – busts or only heads - were derived.
The influence of Rubens on this portrait has been mentioned. But the type is only vaguely reminiscent of the portraits of Pieter Peck (Brussels Museum), those of Hendrik van Thulden (Munich) ca. 1616, and even less that of Michel Ophovius (Mauritshuis, The Hague) of 1617-1618. It bears a closer relationship with the portraits by van Dyck himself. He usually reserves for female figures the chair turned to allow the left arm rest to be seen, but in the portrait of the bishop he places the chair back facing forward and, moreover, directs his gaze to the right.