Benson’s portraits are painted in the meticulous technique of the early Flemish school, with a distinctive warm palette. In these immaculately preserved pendant portraits – the only double portrait in this room – the sitters seem as alert to their own interior imaginings as to any dialogue with each other or the external world.
The coats of arms on the backs of the panels identify the sitters as Cornelius de Scheppere, an important scholar and diplomat who travelled extensively in the service of King Christian II of Denmark and later for Emperor Charles V, and his first wife, Elizabeth Donche.
The portraits are the smallest in Benson’s known oeuvre. The present frame is modern, but they may have been similarly mounted as a hinged diptych for ease of storage, transport and display. Arch-topped frames were in vogue for portraits in the Netherlands and elsewhere in northern Europe from the late 15th century.