Jan van Bijlert was a son of a Utrecht glass painter. His two brothers followed in the footsteps of their father, whereas Jan decided to become a painter. According to the biographer Von Sandrart, he studied under Abraham Bloemaert the patriarch of the Utrecht school of painting. After finishing his training, Van Bijlert left for Italy by way of France, and arrived in Rome around 1621. He was back in Holland in 1625 for in that year he marrried the not impecunious Margrieta Kemings in Amsterdam. The couple settled in Utrecht, where Jan joined the Guild of St Luke in 1626. It was not long before Van Bijlert achieved success as a painter, witness the fact that in 1632 two of his works already belonged to the stadholder's collection. His Protestant convictions did not prevent him from accepting important commissions from Roman Catholic patrons. He held various public offices, including that of dean and 'overseer' of the 'Schilderscollege' in Utrecht and regent of St Job's Hospital.
Some two hundred pictures by Jan van Bijlert are known. The fact that his genre and history pieces are seldom dated complicates the reconstruction of his stylistic development. His best work can be situated at the end of the 1620s and during the 1630s.