Michael Sweerts (1618-1664)
The first record of Flemish painter Michael Sweerts dates from 1646, when he was working in Rome. Most of his initial commissions came from Dutch merchants; later, Cardinal Camillo Pamphili became his main patron. Sweerts seems to have run a school for painters at the latter’s palace. His subjects were everyday scenes, as well as portraits and historical events. The dramatic use of chiaroscuro gives his paintings an added air of mystery. Between 1654 and 1656, Sweerts was back in Brussels. There he set up another academy, with life classes. He also considered the study of Classical art essential for an artist’s education. Fragments of Classical works can be seen in his studio paintings. In 1659, Sweerts joined a Christian mission to the Holy Land. Six months into the journey he was dismissed for behaving inappropriately. Sweerts died in Goa, India.