Murillo and the North: The Case of Michael Sweerts

  • October 5, 2023
  • Online


In this lecture, Ronni Baer (Princeton University Art Museum) discusses compelling evidence of the influence of Michael Sweerts on Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

In addition to his sweet and deeply felt religious paintings, the Spanish artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) produced secular scenes of lower-class old women and young boys, subjects more readily associated with 17th-century northern art than Spanish painting.

Murillo’s Seville was a thriving port and locus of trade with both other European mercantile centers and the rich Spanish American colonies. Art moved freely: Spain had long looked to Flanders (under Spanish Habsburg rule) for artistic products of all kinds, from tapestries for the elite to paintings at all price points to prints, which were consumed in enormous quantities, not least by artists as practical work material. Furthermore, this bustling center was home to hundreds of foreign merchants, among them three of Murillo’s most important patrons, all with ties to the North.

Against this backdrop and with the help of documents that link art collectors, extended family members, and international businessmen, this talk proposes that Murillo drew on the paintings of the Brussels-born Michael Sweerts as a source for his early genre imagery.

Learn more

The program will be presented onsite at the James B. Duke House and live-streamed by Zoom (details available upon registration for virtual attendees) on October 5th at 6 pm.