This is a portrait of Rubens based on the famous 1623 self-portrait in the Royal Collection that had been Rubens's gift to Charles I when Prince of Wales. Luttrell copied it, quite freely, from the 1632 engraving by Paulus Pontius. For example, Luttrell has omitted the gold chain that signified Rubens's wealth and success, and the tassel hanging from the painter's hat.
Vertue mentioned that Luttrell was 'bred to the law of New Inn London' and later took up portraiture as a largely self-taught artist, though some association with Edward Ashfield seems likely. Luttrell's earliest signed pastel was dated 1674 and the next earliest example now known is 1677. In 1683 he wrote a manuscript treatise for a relation, the Epitome of Painting, which is now at Yale Center for British Art and which contains an early description of the mezzotint process. Luttrell drew from the life as a commissioned artist, such as in the large group of portraits of the Croft family of Croft Castle, Herefordshire (National Trust), but this pastel highlights another aspect of Luttrell's work, the production of portraits of historic figures.
This portrait of Rubens may well have been among the thirty 'heads of eminent persons of the former age; most of them from good paintings' that Luttrell offered for sale by raffle in 1710, from his house in Channell Row, Westminster. Among other prizes, Luttrell had thirty 'candle-light heads made up into sconces, well fitted in oval frames and glasses, with handsom brass-branches', forty 'historical heads' and the opportunity for twenty winners to have their portraits drawn 'by the life, in crayoons'. The proposal ends by stating that tickets were available 'at Mrs.Luttrell's Shop in Westminster-Hall, where Specimens may be seen of the said Pictures.' The print shops of Westminster Hall specialised in portraits of notable legal and political figures, so it is no surprise that among Luttrell's works are portraits of Sir Job Charlton, Speaker of the House of Commons in 1673, George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys who was Lord Chancellor under James II, and John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale, the favourite of Charles II. Luttrell's source for this last was Lely's double portrait at Ham House, but elsewhere Luttrell worked from prints, such as this portrait of Rubens. A pastel portrait of Rembrandt in the British Museum is after a self-portrait etching; a portrait of Jan Baptist de Wael is based on Van Dyck's Icones print.