The coat of arms depicts golden pile drivers, indicating the family construction business.
Maerten van Heemskerck lived in Rome for four years (1532–36) and was deeply affected by the city's art and antiquities. Here, the half-length, seated figure, the tense yet elegant hands, and even the grotesque classical mask reflect the impact of that experience, while the love of meticulously represented textures is traditionally associated with northern European art. Machtelt Suijs married Dirick van Teijlingen in 1535 and lived in Alkmaar (the Netherlands), where Heemskerck must have painted her. The coat-of-arms that hangs from the mask combines family emblems, indicating that her portrait must have been accompanied by one (now lost) of her husband.
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