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Ippolito Caffi

 (1809 - 1866)
Ippolito Caffi was active/lived in Italy, England.  Ippolito Caffi is known for architecture, landscape and marine painting-atmospherics.

Ippolito Caffi

Biography from the Archives of askART

Ippolito Caffi was an Italian painter of architectural subjects and seascapes or urban "vedute". He was born at Belluno, Italy to James and Mary Castellani. He studied in Belluno and then in Padua with his cousin the painter Pietro Paoletti, who worked in conjunction with another artist from Belluno in neoclassical style.  He studied and produced his first work at the Accademia in Venice where he was able to know the Venetian painters of the eighteenth century. His Rialto Bridge is an example of this period.

In 1832, Caffi moved to Rome, and in early 1833, opened his own studio, devoting himself to painting and drawing from life.  He made some reputation by his treatise on perspective, as well as by his investigations on Roman archaeology. Domiciled in Rome, he often moved to other cities to exhibit his works.  In Rome he made a trip in a hot air balloon, which influenced him to paint two pictures almost romantic and also from a unique perspective.  In 1843, he visited Athens, Turkey, Palestine and Egypt, returning in 1844 with many sketches and paintings.

The first work of his that created a sensation was Carnival at Venice, which was exhibited at Paris in 1846, and was admired for its brilliant effects of light. Other works of this period are his Panorama of Rome from Monte Mario, Isthmus of Suez, and Close of the Carnival at Rome.

Caffi was highly political and in Venice in 1848 joined revolutionary movements for independence.  This activity led to his being captured in 1848 and detained during that year. In 1849, he lived in Genoa and Switzerland; in 1850 in Turin; and then in London during a series of trips.  In 1858, he was back in Venice and in more trouble for political activities as he was convicted in 1860 of "the crime of public violence" and imprisoned for three months at San Severo.  After his release, he went to Naples, joined the successful army of independence of Garibaldi, and then returned to Venice to resume painting.

However, his political interests led to his death in 1866. Wanting to capture a naval battle on canvas, Caffi died at age 57 on a ship, the King of Italy during the Battle of Lissa, which was part of the Third Italian War for Independence.  With Caffi, his comrades and the rest of the crew, the ship went down on its way from Venice to Florence.

Of Ippolito Caffi, it was written that throughout his life he managed to keep a high enough standard of living by selling his paintings, some replicated many times, to European nobility, including the Prince of Austria.  Although inspired by models of eighteenth-century Venice, he was able to modernize the vocabulary of pictorial views, by exploring new points of view as in night scenes and with unusual topics such as the flight of the balloon.

Although he was much appreciated in life, Caffi had to wait for the mid-1960s to be seriously considered by art historians. With the major exhibition in Venice to celebrate the centenary of his death, appreciation of his painting began to grow. His paintings were very numerous and some of it was lost.

At the Museo Civico of Belluno there are a few works: Night Festival in San Pietro di Castello (oil on canvas) Caravan in the Desert (oil on canvas) Health and the Grand Canal with the Snow (oil on canvas ) Belluno and Mount Serva (oil on canvas) Piazza San Marco with the Fog (oil on canvas). Other paintings are in private collections and numerous other works are preserved in museums, palaces and villas of many Italian and European cities: Vatican City, Copenhagen, Rome, Turin, Treviso, Trieste, Venice.

Jane Turner (ed.), The Dictionary of Art. 5, p. 378. New York, Grove, 1996.
Michael Bryan (1886). Robert Edmund Graves. ed. Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, Biographical and Critical (Volume I: A-K). York St. #4, Covent Garden, London


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About  Ippolito Caffi

Born:  1809 - Belluno, Italy
Died:   1866 - At Sea Between Venice and Florence
Known for:  architecture, landscape and marine painting-atmospherics