(bapt. Brussels, 29 Sept. 1618; d Goa, India, 1664). Flemish painter, an enigmatic and exceedingly attractive artist. Nothing is known of his training or early career. From about 1646 to about 1656 he lived in Rome, where he came into contact with the ‘Bamboccianti’ (see Laer). He painted genre scenes in their manner, but his work is in a class apart because of the quiet, melancholy dignity of his figures and his exquisite tonality. His other pictures in Rome included views of artists' studios (an example dated 1652 is in the Detroit Institute of Arts). By 1656 Sweerts had returned to his native Brussels; he set up a life drawing class in that year and in 1659 became a member of the painters' guild. By 1661 he was in Amsterdam, where he joined a missionary group (he was almost fanatically devout and zealous—giving his possessions to the poor, sleeping on a hard floor, and so on).
Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)