Felice Boselli was an extraordinarily successful and prolific painter who specialized almost exclusively in still lifes. His repertoire within the genre also included kitchen and pantry scenes in which a maid, cook or a serving boy may impinge, but it was for his meats, game, fish and shellfish that he achieved his fame and success.
Between 1665 and 1669, Boselli trained with Giuseppe Nuvolone in Milan where he would have absorbed the influence of Lombard painters such as Evaristo Baschenis - though Boselli is closer to the more earthly world of Vincenzo Campi than the detached perfection of Baschenis - as well as the sixteenth-century Flemish still-life painters Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckelaer, whose influence is most evident in Boselli's youthful works. Boselli returned to Piacenza in 1669 but by 1673 he had moved to Parma where he was to remain for the rest of his life. Boselli was patronized early in his career by the Sanvitale family at whose residence, the Rocca di Fontanellato, Parmigianino painted the celebrated Diana and Acteon cycle of frescoes.
Our picture belongs to the last phase of Boselli's long career, circa 1720-30, when his brushstroke is rapid and nervous and his palette deepens to a range of rich earthy tones. The full-bodied impasto and the sparkling highlights remind one of Neapolitan still life painting and in particular the work of Giuseppe Recco (1634-1695). Recco had in fact worked in Milan, so perhaps the resemblance is not entirely coincidental. Our picture can be compared to a number of small late pictures by Boselli, including a pair of signed fish still lifes in the Di Castro Collection, Rome (see F. Arisi, Felice Boselli, Piacenza, 1973, nos. 431 & 432, figs. 524 & 525) and a picture in a private collection, Voghera, in which an almost identical lobster is portrayed.
Boselli's legacy can be seen in the work of his assistants, Angelo Maria and Giovanni Crivelli, but perhaps more importantly in the humble naturalism of Giuseppe Maria Crespi.