Ippolito Caffi (1814 – 1866) was an Italian painter of architectural subjects and seascapes or urban vedute.
He was born at Belluno. His first works were produced at the Academy of Fine Arts of Venice. By 1830, he had won awards for his vedute at the Academy. He subsequently moved to Rome, made some reputation by his treatise on perspective, as well as by his investigations on Roman archaeology. In 1843 he visited Greece and the East (Athens, Constantinople, Syria, Egypt, and Malta). The first work of his that created a sensation was Carnival at Venice. This was exhibited at Paris in 1846, and was admired for its brilliant effects of light. Other works are his Panorama of Rome from Monte Mario, Isthmus of Suez, and Close of the Carnival at Rome. He joined revolutionary movements in Venice in 1848, and had to retire into Piedmont. His aim of commemorating in paint the first Italian naval engagement was frustrated when the Re d’ Italia, on which he traveled was destroyed on July 20, 1866, by Austro-Venetian fleet at the battle of Lissa, drowning him along with his comrades.
In 2005-2006, an exhibition on Ippolito Caffi was held in his native Belluno
Born by Giacomo and Maria Castellani, he studied in Belluno, then in Padua with his cousin painter Pietro Paoletti, who worked with another belligerent painter of neoclassical taste, Giovanni De Min; Finally at the Academy of Venice, where he could learn the Venetian Vedutists of the 18th century. An example of this period is his The Rialto Bridge, in Ca ‘Pesaro.
In that environment of serious application, but scarce breathing, Caffi began to feel a sense of uneasiness: so, in January 1832, he moved to Rome together with his cousin Paoletti. Attending his shop, Caffi improved his technique, deepening the kind of vision. At the beginning of 1833 Caffi opened his own studio, devoting himself to painting from true to design.
Domiciled in Rome, he often moved to other cities to exhibit his works. In Rome he also made a hot air balloon trip, which struck him so hard to push him to paint two almost romantic paintings.
In 1841 he decorated the Roman Theater of Caffè Pedrocchi of Padua. In 1843 he left for Naples and hence for the East, visiting Athens, Turkey, Palestine and Egypt; He returned to Italy in 1844, burdened with sketches and works.
In 1848 he left Rome, leaving for Friuli, where he enlisted in the war against Austria; Prisoner, escaped, stopping in Venice for a year. In 1849 he settled in Genoa, Switzerland and in 1850 in Turin.
After a series of trips to London, where he exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Paris and Spain, he returned to Rome in 1855 and back to Venice in 1858, where he was undergoing a “crime of public violence”.
In 1860 he was imprisoned in the San Severo jail for three months due to frequent visits to Turin and Milan, who were suspicious of the Austrian authorities. From there he returned to Milan, then went to Naples, joining the Garibaldi army. After 1860, with the Unity of Italy, Caffi returned to Venice, resuming painting.
He died at the age of 57 when the King of Italy sailed during the Battle of Lissa in 1866, in full swing of the Third War of Italian Independence, after leaving Venice in the direction of Florence and, from there, Taranto.
Throughout his life he managed to maintain a fairly high standard of living, selling his paintings, many replicas, to the noble Europeans, including the Prince of Austria himself.
Caffi’s work, though inspired by the 17th-century Venetian models, succeeded in modernizing the pictorial vocabulary of views, both by exploring new perspectives, such as night scenes, and with unusual themes such as ballooning.
Despite being well-liked in life, Caffi had to wait in the mid-sixties to be seriously considered by art historians. With the great exhibition set up in Venice on the occasion of the centenary of death, the revaluation of his painting took place. His pictorial production was very numerous and some of it was lost.
There are only a few works left in the Civic Museum of Belluno:
Night celebration at San Pietro di Castello (oil on canvas)
The Salute and the Grand Canal with Snow (oil on canvas),
Caravan in the desert (oil on canvas),
Belluno and Monte Serva (oil on canvas),
St. Mark’s Square with fog (oil on canvas).
Other canvases are part of private collections and numerous other works are preserved in museums, villas and palaces of many Italian and European cities, including the Vatican City, Copenhagen, Rome, Turin, Treviso, Trieste and Venice.