Giuseppe Maria Crespi known as Spagnuolo
(Bologna 1665 – 1747)

St. John the Baptist Baptises the Crowds

Oil on canvas, 67.5 x 94 cm (27 x 37 inches)


A voice crying out in the wilderness. We participate in an exchange of news at nightfall in the narrow valley, a sort of market of people coming, meeting and going away again. There are those arriving on a boat, because after all, “this took place in Bethany, beyond Jordan, where John was baptising.” The «Baptiser» is also referred to as Yahya in the Koran, “a lamp, burning and shining out,” (John: 5, 35) although not enough to light up the space around him. He will end up in the Macheronte fortress, as decreed by Herod Antipas.

It is said that this «San Giovanni Battista battezza molte figure con Paese, mezzana grandezza» (St. John the Baptist Baptises Many Figures with Landscape, medium size) which Oretti recalls in Palazzo Aldrovandi, in Strada di Galliera, was already one of a pair with «La Strage degli Innocenti (The Slaughter of the Innocents)… similar to the one engraved in copper» (Oretti, M., Le Pitture che si ammirano nelli Palaggi e Case de’ Nobili (The Pictures which can be Admired in the Palaces and Noble Homes), ms. B 104, Bologna, Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio, 1760-1787 circa, part II, c. 6). Both found their way to the Ferratini collection before coming to these rooms.