Lot 9
  • 9

Attributed to Giuseppe Maria Crespi

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Giuseppe Maria Crespi
  • A shepherdess playing the flute
  • oil on canvas, possibly reduced


Probably Angelica Teresa Zanchini, Contessa Zambeccari (d. 1783), Bologna;

By family tradition, said to have been bought from the Zambeccari collection in Bologna by Dr the Rev. Gilbert Elliot, Dean of Bristol (1800–1891), in 1862;

Thence by descent.


Probably Catalogo della Galleria del N.U. Marchese Camillo Zambeccari nel palazzo dirimpetto alla Chiesa di San Paolo, c. 1850–60 (as Cagnacci);

Probably A. Emiliani, La Collezione Zambeccari nella Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (Rapporto della Soprintendenza alle Gallerie di Bologna, n. 19), Bologna 1973, p. 72 (as Cagnacci).


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Attributed to Giuseppe Maria Crespi. A Shepherdess playing the Flute. This painting on herringbone canvas was clearly originally part of a larger work. The right hand side of the canvas has a fractured band about two inches wide, with a few other damages in the lower right corner. The base edge appears from some craquelure, to have perhaps been near an original base edge. There is also a hint of a shape by the distant horizon on the left edge. The poetic figure herself is finely intact in essential areas, including the subtle treatment of the head and vivid brushwork of the sleeve. The warm brushwork and flickering lights of the entire drapery has also survived with great distinction, whatever disruption took place in the wider painting. There are certain damages, with one for instance near the shoulder, and several in the lower right corner. Occasional other minor incidental marks can be found in the background, for instance near the end of the flute, and slight dents with wider losses in the lower left corner. The relining is very recent. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Executed with supreme confidence in an eccentric and highly personal style, this poetic depiction of a seemingly young girl looking wistfully over a wide, barren landscape, her attention devoted to the tune of her flute, has many of the hallmarks of the work of the great Bolognese painter Giuseppe Maria Crespi. Painted on a herringbone canvas prevalent in northern Italy in the seventeenth century, it is likely to have originally been part of a larger canvas, perhaps with more figures, as the roughly cut right-hand edge would suggest.

Tha application of lighter tones freely brushed onto a dark background, layer upon layer, wet in wet, is characteristic of Crespi’s mature work. The supremely confident brushwork on the sleeve may be compared with the artist’s Mother and child sold in these rooms, 8 December 2004, lot 45 (£240,0000; fig. 1). This is a technique seen as well in the work of Crespi’s contemporary in Bologna Giovanni Antonio Burrini (1656–1727) as exemplified by his Study of a youth in the Museo Davia Bargellini, Bologna.1

Crespi delighted in the depiction of women in unusual poses and gestures. Very often his women are completely or three-quarter turned, their back to the viewer, in semi-contraposto. There is something of the spirit of Crespi’s genre-landscapes in this work, normally filled with women at various tasks, and the figure here recalls, for example, those of the woman spinning wool in the work of the same title sold London, Christie’s, 25 November 1966, lot 36; the woman playing a lute in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the figure of Mary Magdalene in the Niedersächsische Landesgalerie, Hannover; or the central figure in the Finding of Moses in Palazzo Venezia, Rome.2 The rusty, ochre colour of the garment is also one widespread in his œuvre.

Note on Provenance
By family tradition the painting was acquired for the present collection in 1862 by their ancestor Dr Elliot, Dean of Bristol with an attribution to Cagnacci. It is said he bought it from the Zambeccari family of Bologna. The first record of the present painting is likely to be a mid-nineteenth century reference to a work in Marchese Camillo Zambeccari's collection. Given that Elliot is deemed to have acquired the painting as a Cagnacci it may be identifiable with the following entry in the catalogue of the Marchese's collection, put together just a few years before Elliot's acquisition: 'Cagnacci, Guido. Una Pastorella, tela'.3 Much of the Zambeccari collection was acquired in 1884 by the Pinacoteca in Bologna.

1. See E. Riccomini, Giovanni Antonio Burrini, Bologna 1999, pp. 177–78, cat. no. 13, reproduced p. 62, fig. 28.

2. For the three latter, see M. Merriman, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Milan 1980, cat. no. 213, reproduced; cat. no. 95, reproduced; and cat. no. 5, reproduced colour plate I.

3. A. Emiliani, La Collezione Zambeccari nella Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (Rapporto della Soprintendenza alle Gallerie di Bologna, n. 19), Bologna 1973, p. 72. An earlier inventory of the collection of Angelica Teresa Zanchini, Contessa Zambeccari, drawn up on the 17 February 1783 and held today in the Archivio di Stato, Bologna, would appear not to list the work in question, although under no. 31 a painting of a figure playing an instrument is recorded with an attribution to Carracci (‘Uno che suona una graticola mezza figura al naturale dipinto in tela a oglio alto piedi 2 largo 1 d 8 originale de Caracci cornice intagliata e dorata L. 140’); see G. Becchetti et al., Inventario de Mobili nel casino posto Nel Comune di Gesso, 17 February 1783, no. 31.