A delectable Sweerts

On 20 December 2019, by Anne Doridou-Heim

As fate would have it, Michael Sweerts was once again wafted to the delicious heights of success with a discovery that bore fruit.

Michael Sweerts (1618-1664), Boy with a Fruit (Allegory of Taste), oil on canvas, 24.6 x 18.3 cm.
Result: €519,500

Perhaps his fine result will restore a smile to this little boy's face... He is pouting in surprise after tasting not the forbidden fruit, but the acidic flesh of a pomegranate, and is marvellously depicted by the Brussels-born Michael Sweerts (1618-1664). On 15 November the artist had already been in the limelight. His work was really discovered in the 19th century, bringing to light a highly original personality with a short but eventful life, who lived in Rome and Amsterdam before ending his days in Goa, in Portuguese India. That day, Touch (75 x 60 cm), duly admired, was knocked down for €663,520, posting the third highest price at auction for the Brabant-born artist. Meanwhile, this Boy with a Fruit, an allegory of taste forming part of a series devoted to the five senses, landed €519,500. It must be said that everything is to be savoured in this small painting. Whereas Flemish expressionism was dominant in the former work (particularly in the choice of figure), here an unobtrusive naturalism takes precedence, as seen in the neutral background, the black clothing very subtly highlighted by the white collar, the well-combed hair and the sweet, delicate little face. In addition, the child is far more engaging than his two better-known little comrades in the series, who have been in the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam since 1954: a small boy holding a recently snuffed candle, representing Smell, and a little girl with a bandaged finger, symbolising Touch. All three are painted with the same naturalism, but the little fruit lover has a charm that makes him particularly appealing. We look forward to the next one...

 

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