(b. ca. 1480, Mechelen, d. 1553, Mechelen)


Frans Crabbe van Espleghem, Flemish printmaker. Friedländer first identified the Master of the Crayfish (Dutch: Crabbe) as Frans Crabbe in 1921. It seems likely that Crabbe met and was influenced by Albrecht Dürer during the latter's visit to Mechelen in June 1521. In 1539 Crabbe acquired the workshop of Nicolaas Hogenberg, he is recorded in Mechelen as a master in the Guild of St Luke and head of the Brotherhood of Our Lady. His work is transitional, combining late northern medieval subjects and compositions with a style and technique showing the influence of the Italian Renaissance. He was especially indebted to Lucas van Leyden in his concern for atmosphere and depth in landscape, and to Jan Gossart for Italianate figure types.

Crabbe worked as an engraver, woodcutter and etcher but is noted for etching because of his unusual success in a medium considered by his contemporaries to be limited. His achievement lies in his ability to create graphic equivalents for a painterly style in this experimental medium and in his ambitious compositions, which show his ability to depict striking lighting and atmospheric conditions. Surviving examples of his work are rare.