Michael SWEERTS (Bruxelles, 1618 - Goa, 1664)

Lot 44
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80 000 - 120 000 EUR
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Result : 519 520 EUR

Michael SWEERTS (Bruxelles, 1618 - Goa, 1664)

A child holding a fruit (allegory of taste)
Canvas.
24.6 x 18.3 cm
(Old restorations).
Has an old attribution to Gainsborough.
This wonderful little painting, unpublished, fits perfectly into a series of Michael Sweerts on the Five
Senses, two other elements of which are already known: the Smell, a little boy holding a candle just extinguished (fig.1) and Le Toucher, a little girl showing a bandage on her finger (fig. 2), exactly the same size as our canvas, at the Museum Boijnams-van Beuningen in Rotterdam since 1954 (Rolph Kultzen, Michael Sweerts, Davaco éditeur, 1996, p. 122, n°107 and n°108). Our child holding a fruit is the allegory of taste. The expressions of these three toddlers, between the ages of four and five, are strikingly realistic and human: the little girl is sulky, with a tear in her eye, our boy is surprised by the taste of the fruit (or the texture if it's a pomegranate). Their presence is immediate, friendly and timeless.
No one other than Sweerts, if not the Le Nain, knows how to capture the vulnerability of childhood with such delicacy and freshness (for example, Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum; Leicester
Art Gallery; Groningen, Stedelijk Museum - of dimensions identical to our painting, fig. 3 -; New
York, Leiden collection and other private collections, mostly dated from the second half of the 1650s).
The artist likes to paint characters who stare at the viewer, often with a look full of tenderness and compassion for his models, regardless of their age. This does not exclude a slight melancholy or a humorous look. He paints them in a strong contrast of caravaggesque origin, with a smooth technique, a clear palette and no chiaroscuro effect (unlike a Rembrandt). The tightened framing belongs to a genre of Nordic painting, the tronies (trognes), a term that means "face" in ancient Dutch. These are studies of expression or gender of a single character halfway between a portrait based on a true likeness and the representation of a character or stereotype.
The sections develop from Pieter Brueghel to Balthazar Denner and Pietro Rotari. Self-portraits in costume from Rembrandt to the Young Girl with the Pearl of Vermeer - circa 1675 - can also be classified as such. In France, Lagneau's drawings belong to this genre (see Dagmar
Hirschfelder - Leon Kremple, Tronies. Das Gesicht in der frühen Neuzeit, Berlin, 2013).
Other series on the five senses are known from Sweerts, each of which is of original design, incomplete or scattered, depicted either by children (two paintings in Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie) or adults.
Born in Brussels, end of a merchant, Michael Sweerts was a painter with a romantic life, independent, with a rather atypical background for his time. He visited Italy in his early years (1646-1654), stayed in Rome and frequented the bamboccianti circle, then returned to his hometown for a short time (c. 1655-1660). He then briefly settled in Amsterdam (1660-1661), then moved to France, before embarking on a trip with the Paris Foreign Mission to India. There he lived in the Portuguese Jesuit community until his death in Goa in 1664.
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