Flemish artist Michael Sweerts’ self-portrait, created in circa 1660, depicts a man holding a skull while looking over his shoulder at the viewer. Sweerts was known for creating allegorical paintings, genre pieces, portraits and tronies. He resided in various locations including Rome, Brussels, Amsterdam, Persia and India where he eventually passed away.
The painting portrays an emotive figure with his head turned and is thought to be a self-portrait of the artist. Sweerts was well-known for incorporating confronting images like inserting his finger inside the skull as a taunt to mortality. The artwork perfectly showcases his use of provocative imagery that strikes at viewers on multiple levels.
Housed as part of the Bader Collection of Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Michael Sweerts’ Portrait Of A Man Holding A Skull features intricate detailing that is both technically impressive and emotionally complex. With this piece comes an insight into the artist’s approach as he aims to create works demanding introspection from those who experience them in person or virtually.