Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Michiel (or Michael) Sweerts was born in Brussels in 1618 and learned to be an artist according to the traditions that prevailed in the Low Countries at the beginning of the 17th century. During the decade from 1646 to 1655 he lived and worked in Rome – center of the art world in those legendary days when Poussin was also living and working in the city as a voluntary exile from the political chaos created by the Fronde in his own native France.
Shortly after returning to Brussels in the late 1650s, Michiel Sweerts published a portfolio of portrait-etchings in the Italian manner – intended to help achieve for him at home a reputation comparable to the one he had earned in Italy.
The final etching renders in reverse a self-portrait (below) painted in Brussels toward the end of the 1650s. The Flemish public had proved less receptive than the Romans to the expressive abilities of Michiel Sweerts. In his disappointment he seemingly fell under the influence of Counter-Reformation religious enthusiasm. The self-portrait is inscribed on the back with a farewell to Europe, as the artist prepared to embark on one of the Roman Catholic missionary voyages to Asia that were so numerous in that zealous and rapacious period.
Images from the Rijksmuseum.