A Young Couple and a Boy in a Garden, about 1650
Oil on canvas
Charlotte E. W. Buffington Fund
A native of Brussels, Sweerts was one of the many seventeenth-century Netherlandish artists who spent time in Rome, where he painted primarily low-life genre scenes. This work, done around the midpoint of his ten-year stay there, shows the influence of Caravaggio, the Italian painter who first popularized the use of strong contrasts of light and shadow to create dramatic effects. Sweerts's paintings appear to have been made primarily for private collectors, who often preferred pictures of this moderate scale for display in their homes.
Many paintings from this period, which appear to be a reflection of daily life are filled with further meaning. While we cannot be sure of the full meaning of this painting, its setting- an enclosed garden- is a traditional sexual symbol, as is the bunch of grapes the man holds. The woman's décolleté costume suggests that she may be a courtesan.