Crespi began his training at the age of twelve in the studio of a little-known painter in his native city. In the early 1680s he spent time studying with Domenico Maria Canuti and around 1684 entered the drawing academy directed by Carlo Cignani. From the outset, Crespi was interested in the work of the late 16th-century Bolognese masters and copied frescoes by the Carracci and works by Guercino. In 1686 he began to work with Gian Antonio Burrini, who introduced him to the art dealer Giovanni Ricci. Over the following years the latter assisted him financially to make trips to Urbino, Parma and Venice, allowing him to study the work of the great northern masters such as Correggio, Veronese and Titian. In 1690 Crespi painted his first important work, The Temptations of Saint Anthony, for the church of San Nicolò degli Albari in Bologna. In 1700 Crespi opened his own school of painting in Bologna. In the first decade of the century he was employed by Prince Ferdinand of Tuscany, for whom he painted The Ecstasy of Saint Margaret of Cortona (Museo Diocesano, Cortona), and the ambitious Massacre of the Innocents (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence). Through his contacts with the Florentine court Crespi became acquainted with the Medici collection of Dutch and Flemish painting, which decisively influenced his style. In 1712 he painted his celebrated series of The Seven Sacraments for Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden).