View 1 of Lot 24. ATTRIBUTED TO MICHAEL SWEERTS | OLD MAN SMOKING A PIPE, WEARING A TURBAN, HALF-LENGTH.
View 1 of Lot 24. ATTRIBUTED TO MICHAEL SWEERTS | OLD MAN SMOKING A PIPE, WEARING A TURBAN, HALF-LENGTH.
24

ATTRIBUTED TO MICHAEL SWEERTS | OLD MAN SMOKING A PIPE, WEARING A TURBAN, HALF-LENGTH

Estimate:

70,000 - 90,000 USD

ATTRIBUTED TO MICHAEL SWEERTS | OLD MAN SMOKING A PIPE, WEARING A TURBAN, HALF-LENGTH

ATTRIBUTED TO MICHAEL SWEERTS | OLD MAN SMOKING A PIPE, WEARING A TURBAN, HALF-LENGTH

Estimate:

70,000 - 90,000 USD

ATTRIBUTED TO MICHAEL SWEERTS

(Brussels 1618 - 16664 Goa)

OLD MAN SMOKING A PIPE, WEARING A TURBAN, HALF-LENGTH


oil on canvas

18½ by 14⅞ in.; 47.1 by 37.9 cm.

Private collection, Netherlands.

Michael Sweerts is first recorded in Rome in 1646, where he received commissions from Dutch merchants and later from Cardinal Camillo Pamphilj. He painted genre scenes and religious works but is best known for his use of strong chiaroscuro and direct and realistic portraits like the present lot. The turbaned man appears to lean out of a window and looks quizzically off into the distance just askance of the viewer as he lights his clay pipe. A wisp of smoke escapes his mouth and almost blends in with the soft hair of his gray beard. This canvas likely originated in Italy due to its coarse weave, which links it to the Northern artists working in Rome in the mid-17th century.


Sweerts and other artists in the group of Dutch and Flemish artists working in Rome known as the Bamboccianti tended to specialize in what were considered "low" subjects in the eyes of Italian academic painters. The present picture would have been judged as "rough" due to the foreign sitter, the activity of smoking, and the naturalistic details like the man's dirty hands and fingernails. Sweerts's Old woman spinning in the Fitzwilliam Museum (fig. 1) shows similarly unflinching details such as in the woman's wrinkles, the dirt on her clothes and her hands, and her gaunt expression.


Despite the attention to the sometimes unflattering traits of a sitter, Sweerts and his contemporaries were also interested in life study and the academic tradition, as evidenced by Sweerts opening a sort of school both in Pamphilj's residence and at home in Brussels. The combination of acute observation of everyday subjects, use of light and shadow, and interest in technique and precision make images like this one effectively timeless.