Had Daniele Crespi enjoyed a longer career, and were his works not largely confined to Lombardy, he would be widely known as a master of the first order. He was without doubt the finest painter of the second generation of Baroque painting in Milan. In his paintings the willful deformation and troubling intensity of the school’s first generation have been subjected to a more disciplined sense of design and a more predictable language of expression, reflecting the lessons of recent Florentine painting as well as the emerging Bolognese academy. The resulting style is original in its staging but legible in its action and noble in its feeling.

This is one of Crespi’s most important early pictures. The general composition and its compression of space into a single plane derive from a low-relief sculpture designed by Cerano for the façade of the church of San Paolo Converso in Milan. The intricate rhythms and the palette depend more on Giulio Cesare Procaccini, another major figure of the first generation who was Crespi’s principal inspiration if not actual teacher. But the incisive drawing of Saint Paul, the exact modeling of his forms, and the memorable enunciation of the drama announce the fact and direction of a distinctive language.
The Suida-Manning Collection includes a second outstanding picture by Crespi, Ecce Homo of about two years later.