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Sweerts, Michael
Self-portrait with Skull
Around 1661

In this self-portrait, the Flemish artist Michael Sweerts gazes at the viewer over his shoulder, a dynamic pose that came to connote the artist’s creative vitality. Brazenly inserting his finger into a skull, he seems to be openly taunting mortality. This is one of a number of provocative self-portraits in which Sweerts comments upon the power of art. His contemporaries valued portraits (as we do today) for their ability to transcend time by preserving the likenesses of loved ones long gone.

 
Sweerts, Michael
Brussels, Belgium 1618–Goa, India 1664
Self-portrait with Skull
Around 1661
Oil on canvas
78.7 x 60.9 cm
Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2004
47-001

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