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Flemish painter. He specialized in portraits and genre scenes. He was born in Brussels. He travelled to Italy in or before 1646 for, in that year, he is recorded as an associate member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Until 1651 he is listed as a resident of the Via Margutta in the parochial registers of S. Maria del Popolo. He stayed until at least 1656, painting in a style influenced by the Banboccianti (banbocciata), the Dutch and Flemish artists who painted low life and genre scenes for the Italian market (e.g. Soldiers Playing Dice, c1649, Paris, Louvre). In addition, Sweerts painted a number of pictures of artists working in the studio (e.g. The Academy, c1656, Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum). He had definitely returned home by 1656 because in that year he applied to the magistracy of Brussels to open a drawing academy of his own. In 1659 he enrolled in the Brussels Guild of Painters. Once returned from Italy his work took on the influence of Vermeer, and his best paintings (e.g. Portrait of a Girl, Leicester, Museum and Art Gallery) fully reveal the cool palette and classical simplification of forms hinted at in his earlier work. Sweerts was a Catholic, and in 1661 he became a lay brother and travelled to Syria and Persia, where he worked initially as a missionary. However, he seems to have been temperamentally unsuited to the work. He had a number of disagreements with his brothers and was dismissed. He nonetheless remained in the east, continued to paint, and later died in Goa, India.
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