A work which combines charged, staccato brushwork and compositional creativity, Daniele Crespi’s Annunciation
encapsulates this great Lombard artist’s contribution to Italian seicento
painting. Executed on panel, this is a rare easel-sized painting by Crespi, and one which, perhaps surprisingly, only reemerged within the past few years. In its nearly frenzied application of paint, the technique matches with similar smaller works from the early part of Crespi’s all too brief career, for instance the Lucifer
1618 in a private collection (see N. Ward Neilson, Daniele Crespi,
Soncino 1996, fig. 3C). The striking diversity of paint application is what immediately captures the viewer. The smooth underlying paint application blocks out of the forms of the Virgin and the Archangel Gabriel, on top of which are rapid, nervous highlights that complete the modeling and shading. The white, parallel highlights which act as finishing, yet essential touches to both the Virgin’s blue cloak and the Archangel’s maroon drapery, serve to round out this otherwise sketchy composition. The profile and three-quarter view of the Angel and Virgin, respectively, recall similar faces from another early, larger Rest on the Flight into Egypt
(Princeton, Princeton University Art Museums). In both instances the idyllic, softly modeled contours reflect the lingering Mannerist influence of Correggio, along with more contemporary inspiration from Giulio Cesare Procaccini and Giovanni Battista Crespi, called Il Cerano.
Crespi’s career was frustratingly short, having succumbed to the plague in 1630 at age 32. Thus his career was largely confined to Lombardy with a small extant output (Ward-Nielson lists eighty-four autograph paintings; ibid.) Despite this brevity, his impact on Baroque painting was profound as he served as a key bridge between the highly exaggerated, mannered style of the generation prior, and the early Baroque movement which was to define the remainder of the seventeenth-century. Among his contemporaries were Alessandro Tiarini and the aforementioned Cerano, who, along with Crespi forged the path in the north of Italy for a new visual language in Italian art.