Caterina van Hemessen was born c.1528 in Antwerp, Flanders. She was a daughter of a well-known Mannerist painter, Jan Sanders van Hemessen. She learned to paint from her father and collaborated with him on some of his works. Van Hemessen painted portaits of wealthy men and women of her day. These paintings are usually small pictures of persons against a plain dark background. Many of these paintings now hang in Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam and in the National Gallery in London. Van Hemessen was very successful as a painter and Queen Mary of Hungary, Regent of the Low Countries, was her main patron and supporter.
In 1554, Caterina married Chrétien de Morien, the organist of Antwerp Cathedral. Two years later, when Queen Mary resigned her regency and returned to Spain, Caterina and her husband were invited to join her. They remained in Spain until 1558, but returned to Antwerp after the queen died. Queen Mary showed her appreciation by bequeathing them funds to live the rest of their lives in comfort.