Portrait of a Gentleman with Snuff 
Oil on Canvas
31 7/8 x 27 1/4 in. 


About Guiseppe Maria Crespi

The paintings of Giuseppe Maria Crespi have been described as a "deliberate reaction to all that was solemn and academic in the Bolognese tradition." No better introduction could be made to the present painting, a recently discovered, unpublished portrait from Crespi's maturity.

In it Crespi seems to fuse two themes of his artistic production - the intensive and incisive depiction of character in portraits and the more distant and somewhat bemused observation typical of his genre pictures. The pose and action of the subject reflect the informatlity of the latter, while the brilliant depiction of the subject's face and the expressive force of his hand recall his more traditional portraits. The sitter turns in his chair, leans forward and to the right, and offers to the viewer an open box of snuff as he smiles and looks through half-closed eyes. He wears a muted jacket unbuttoned to his stomach, revealing a white blouse of crisp folds spectcularly rendered. Crespi's cool palette of smoky grays over earthtones is utilized in figure, costume, and background. This is a brilliant, witty and utterly original depiction of a real and knowable personality.

While there are some physiognomic similiarties to sitters of other portraits by Crespi - one thinks of the Portrait of Chancellor Florius Senesius at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston or the Portrait of Generally Palffy at Dresden -- the subject of the portrait has not as of yet been indentified. The possibility that the present work is a self-portrait should not be ruled out. While known portraits by and of Crespi, usually depicted solemnly in the traditional dress of an artist, are not overly compelling for such an identifician, the sheer boldness of the invention, the charm and humor of the decpicition of the subject- so much in keeping with what we know of the artist and his work -- make such a proposal especially attractive.