Jan Philips van Thielen was born in Mechelen in 1618. As the son of a minor nobleman, he eventually became Lord of Cauwenberg. In 1631, aged 13, he went to Antwerp to study with the history painter Theodoor Rombouts (Antwerp 1597 – 1637). In 1641 he became Daniel Seghers’ only pupil. Seghers (Antwerp 1590 – 1661), who was a member of the jesuit order, was one of the most important flower painters in seventeenth century Antwerp; he was very influenced by Jan Brueghel the Elder and collaborated with many prominent peers. In 1642 van Thielen became a member of the Antwerp guild of St Luke; he would remain active in Antwerp until 1659, when he went back to Mechelen. Van Thielen married in 1640, to Françoise van Hemelaer. The couple had nine children; three of his daughters – Anna, Francisca-Catherina and Maria Theresia – studied with him and went on to become flower painters themselves. He became a member of the Mechelen guild of St Luke in 1660 and remained there until his death in 1667.
Van Thielen painted mostly flower garlands and still life paintings, often collaborating with other painters, such as Erasmus II Quellinus (who was his brother-in-law) and Cornelis Schut. He enjoyed an excellent reputation, evidenced by the fact that he counted the Spanish court amongst his patrons. Stylistically, he was much influenced by his master Daniel Seghers, although later on he would develop a more idiosyncratic stylistic idiom.