Levina Bening Teerlinc was born in Bruges, the eldest of five daughters. Her father, Simon Bening, and her grandfather, Alexander Bening, were both famous miniaturists of international standing, and Levina, trained by her father, followed in his footsteps. Another sister, Alexandra, became an art dealer. Levina studied in Bruges with her father and by the 1530s was becoming well known for her skill. By 1545 she had married George Teerlinc; when the English King Henry VIII, who had heard of Teerlinc's gifts as an artist, invited Levina to join his court as official painter, the couple moved to England. At the same time he made her husband a Gentleman Pensioner of the Royal Household. Henry had been in great dismay when his earlier court artist, Hans Holbein, had died in 1543. The invitation to Teerlinc was part of Henry's attempt to bring in artists and musicians from abroad who would add to the glamour and splendor at court, but it is remarkable that a woman was to hold such an important position as court artist in sixteenth-century England. Anne, Countess of Pembroke, the sister of Henry VIII's last wife Kathenine Parr, was also a patron of Teerlinc, and Teerlinc probably painted a miniature of the Queen Katherine.
In 1546 Levina was granted £40 per annum as a court painter, the most a court artist would receive in England until the end of the century, and she was paid considerably more than Hans Holbein had been, today a far more famous artist. Teerlinc was a court painter in the reigns of Henry VIII and all three of his children, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Around 1550, Teerlinc painted a portrait of Elizabeth as a young girl. Records from the Privy Council show a warrant was given to pay George Teerlinc £10 to take his wife to Elizabeth at Hatfield so that Teerlinc could paint the princess's picture. This was a large amount, as the usual fee for miniatures was between £3 and £4, and some scholars hypothesize that this was a