barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747)

A Woman Looking for Fleas

Bologna, about 1715/20

Oil on canvas

49.5 x 38 cm


It is night, and a partially undressed woman surrounded by her stays, skirt hoops and stockings, searches for fleas. 

She has placed a pot of water in front of her in which to drown them.  At the top, two boys look down at her, adding a ribald element to this low-life scene.

Although Crespi painted religious subjects, he is best known today for his genre paintings, being one of the first Italian artists to specialise in everyday scenes.  This subject was particularly popular and there are six other versions.


Purchased 1965 (No.65.3)