This picture relates to Sweerts's celebrated series of The Seven Acts of Mercy, painted in Rome in circa 1646-9, at the height of his Italian career. Four of the seven pictures are in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, one is in the Rau Foundation, Zurich, one is in an English private collection, and the painting that the present picture relates to, The Burial of the Dead, is in the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut.
It is not known whether Sweerts used sketches or drawings in the course of his work, as none have yet come to light; however, the appearance of the present picture at auction in 2000, when it was thought to be a studio work, has possibly thrown new light on this aspect of Sweerts' work. This may well be a preparatory sketch for the Wadsworth Athenaeum picture, or alternatively it may be a reduced version with slight variations. For a discussion of this picture and the series in general see G. Jansen and P.C. Sutton, op. cit., pp. 80-93.