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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Woman Playing a Lute

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Although Crespi was a fine portrait painter, he is best known for his lively, informally posed scenes of daily life, which influenced artists throughout Europe in the later eighteenth century. At once immediate and timeless, this study of a young woman absorbed in tuning her lute demonstrates...

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18th century, possibly Giovanni Ricci, Bologna; by descent within the family to Giacomo Marchesini, Bologna [see note 1]. Private Collection, Lombardy, Italy. By 1959, Vitale Bloch (b. 1900 - d. 1975), The Hague and Paris; 1969, sold by Bloch to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 11, 1969) NOTES: [1] On the early provenance of this painting, see Mira Pajes Merriman, Giuseppe Maria Crespi (Milan: Rizzoli, 1980), pp. 295-296, cat. no. 213. In the second half of the eighteenth century, Marcello Oretti recorded a painting by Crespi of a woman playing a lute in the possession of Giacomo Marchesini. While this does match the description of the MFA work, Oretti also referred to the subject as the "famous singer" Vittoria Tesi (b. 1700)--who could not plausibly be the woman in the MFA painting, given its date of around 1700-05. However, if Oretti's identification of the subject was incorrect, this may well be one of the paintings that the Marchesini family had inherited from Giovanni Ricci, a Bolognese merchant and patron of Crespi.

Credit Line

Charles Potter Kling Fund

about 1700–05


121.3 x 153 cm (47 3/4 x 60 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas