This master, who was active during the first half of the 16th century, remains unidentified. Above all, he is famous for his half-length portraits of women, often dressed in rich clothing. The elegant nature of his models, the subjects of his paintings inspired by music or poetry, have led historians to assume that he worked in Malines, in the refined and cultivated circle of Margaret of Austria, governor of the Netherlands from 1518 to 1530. Her portrait was painted by Bernard van Orley. The anonymous painter is possibly from his studio. This artist also painted landscapes containing religious scenes. He owes his conception of panoramic landscape to the influence of Joachim Patenier, who lived in Antwerp until 1524. These various observations converge to justify the hypothesis that the Master worked in Antwerp and Malines, and that his activity developed between 1527 and 1540.
The constant morphological types of his feminine models differ from those in the paintings of his contemporaries, Adriaen Isenbrant and Ambrosius Benson; he has nevertheless been compared with these artists especially as regards religious subjects. This Master’s works remain principally associated with half-length portraits of young women; the head is turned three quarters, the face is oval, the eyebrows arched, the lips well defined, the hair most often in a centre parting, the hands delicate and manicured. Such are the characteristics of the idealised model the Master of Half-length Figures featured in all his paintings. This feminine model also appears in paintings of religious subjects.