The present portrait is one such work, comparable to Sweerts' masterly Boy with a hat, in the Wadsworth Athenenum, Hartford, Conneticut,1 the Head of a boy, in the Groninger Museum, Groningen,2 or the Portrait of a youth in a private collection - all similarly intimate works which employ a muted palette to picture a child, head half-turned, expression serious. These portraits, thought to date from around the time that Sweerts left Rome to return to Brussels and Amsterdam (circa 1656 to 1661), embody the tension that renders the artist's work so intriguing. At once intimate yet remote, sympathetic yet cool, they blur the distinctions between portraits, character studies and genre paintings to produce works that hover between realism and idealization.
1 See G. Jansen and P.C. Sutton, Michael Sweerts (1618-1664), exh. cat., Amsterdam 2002, pp. 146-48, cat. no. XXIV, reproduced in color p. 147.
2 See Jansen and Sutton 2002, p. 146, under cat. no. XXIV, reproduced fig. XXIV-I.
3 See Jansen and Sutton 2002, p. 149, under cat. no. XXV, reproduced fig. XXV-I.
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