CRESPI, Giuseppe Maria
(b. 1665, Bologna, d. 1747, Bologna)

The Flea

Oil on copper, 28 x 24 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Through the oiled paper in the window frame, a milky light falls into the humble servant's room. Clothing is scattered untidily on the floor and thrown over a roughly made bench. A few household objects and some washing on a bar hang against the bare brick wall, whose only remaining decoration consists of a few personal items. The pretty woman who lives in this room, a maid or servant girl, is sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed only in a shift. As she concentrates on her search for a flea that has probably hidden on her breast, she reveals her round knees, her plump arms and her well formed shoulder.

The complete intimacy of this scene and the still-life of the utensils anticipates a theme that was to become typical of late 18th century taste: innocence glimpsed unawares. AIthough there are a number of allegorical reflections - the little dog at the end of the bed, the roses in the vase next to the cosmetic jar they nevertheless do not seriously mean to identify this girl with Venus. The "keyhole perspective" also leaves it up to the spectator to choose his or her own interpretation of the scene.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Modest Mussorgsky: Flea song