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Michael Sweerts
Birth Date: 
Death Date: 
Little is known about Michael Sweerts's early years, except that he was baptized at the church of Saint Nicholas in Brussels in 1618, the son of a Catholic linen merchant. Further documentation appears in 1646 when he is recorded in Rome amid the resident community of northern artists, residing on the Via Margutta.Nothing is known about his early training or travels, but his Roman works develop from the tradition of the Bambocciante, followers of the Dutch artist Pieter van Laer. Sweerts is best known for his depictions of Italian peasants; however, unlike the other Bambocciante, Sweerts's works exhibit an inner balance and harmony which imbue the peasant figures with classical form and dignity. In spite of his penchant for lowlife street scenes, he also painted interior genre scenes, single figures, and formal portraits, and was an accomplished etcher. A member of the Academy of Saint Luke, Sweerts was in Rome at least until 1652, subsequently returning to the Low Countries. In Brussels by 1656, he established a drawing academy, a relatively rare institution in Northern Europe and probably based on Italian prototypes. Although Flemish by birth, Sweerts's artistic style is more Dutch in character. Thus it is not surprising to learn that he had settled in Amsterdam prior to 1661. It is from that city that he departed for the Far East as a lay brother in the company of a French missionary. He is later recorded as a visitor at a Portuguese Jesuit mission in India, dying in Goa in 1664.