Crespi, Joseph Maria

, sometimes called La Spagnuolo, from the style in which he affected to dress, was born at Bologna, in 1665, and received his earliest instruction in design from Angelo Toni, a very moderate artist; but in a short time he quitted that school, and successively studied under Domenico Cainuti, Carlo Cignani, and Giovanni Antonio Burrini. From them he applied himself to study the works of Baroccio, and afterwards the principles of colouring at Venice, from the paintings of Titian, Tintoretto, and Paul Veronese. Thus qualified to appear with credit in his profession, his merit was made known to the grand duke Ferdinand, who immediately engaged him in several noble compositions, which he executed with success. In portrait he was particularly excellent; and to those subjects he gave elegant attitudes, with a strong and graceful resemblance.

His imagination was lively, and often whimsical; he was very famous for caricatures, and frequently amused himself with designing comic and burlesque fancies, which he expressed with abundance of humour and drollery. Sometimes he etched those designs with aqua fortis, selecting his subjects from the writings of the facetious and burlesque poets. He was remarkably singular, in accustoming himself to paint in a chamber properly darkened, and so contrived as to admit a ray of the sun, or the light of a flambeau, to enable him to give a greater roundness and relief to his paintings, by a nice observation of the force of natural light and shadow. His works are dispersed into different parts of Europe. In the gallery of Dresden were “The Seven Sacraments,” in seven pieces; “The Virgin, Christ, and St. John,” “An Ecce Homo, attended by two Soldiers.” He died in 1747. His sons, Antonio and Lewis, were some of the best of their father’s scholars, but though their works were much studied, and composed with more sobriety than those of their father, they never attained his eminence in the art. Lewis, indeed, quitted the pencil for the pen, and wrote many considerable works relating to the arts, and amongst others, the Supplement | or 3d volume of the “Felsina Pittrice.” He died in 1779, and Antonio survived him only three years. 1


Pilkington.—Argenville.—Rees’s Cyclopædia.