Ippolito Caffi e La Festa dei Moccoletti - Il carnevale a Roma

Ippolito Caffi and the Moccoletti Festival - Carnival in Rome

Ippolito Caffi, Italian painter. After initially training in Belluno (1821-25), then in Padua with his cousin Pietro Paoletti, Caffi attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, a pupil of Teodoro Matteini, Francesco Bagnara and Tranquillo Orsi.

In 1832 he moved to Rome, acquiring immediate fame as a landscape painter. He showed a virtuoso mastery of spatial construction, in 1835 he published a textbook on perspective, Lessons in practical perspective, with Antonio Bianchini.

Caffi modernized the vocabulary of the view inherited from Canaletto, selecting new points of view, and showed interest in nocturnal scenes with artificial or lunar lighting, in recording the effects of light and atmosphere at particular moments, and in recounting unusual events such as eclipses and hot air balloon flights.

View of the Pantheon View of the Pantheon

He is an artist and a romantic figure of great charm, among the greatest and most original landscape artists of the Italian nineteenth century. During his short but intense life he achieved great fame and admiration, his landscapes and other works of art acquired a European dimension and breadth that make him similar to Corot.

But in addition to being one of the most acclaimed artists of his time, Caffi was also a courageous, restless person, an adventurous soul, a tireless traveler and a devoted patriot with his involvement in the uprisings of 1848-49, the Austrian persecutions and the Third War of Independence until his premature death at just 57 years old during the battle of Lissa aboard the flagship Re d'Italia.

His most famous work, which we see here, La Festa dei Moccoletti (The Carnival in Rome), shows the originality of his style. Rome appears as an illusionistically vast stage on which the human figures are simply sparks of light and spots of vivid color. Exhibited in Venice, it met with enormous success, Caffi performed 42 replicas, a practice adopted for other popular subjects. Veiled light and heavy atmosphere are the main elements of Venice in the snow (1850; Trieste, Museo Civico Revoltella).

The Moccoletti Festival (Carnival in Rome) The Moccoletti Festival (Carnival in Rome)

During the third war of Italian independence, during the battle of Lissa in 1866, a tragic event occurred which marked the end of the talented artist Ippolito Caffi. This event occurred while Caffi, originally from Venice, was traveling from Venice to Florence and, subsequently, to Taranto, on board the ship Re d'Italia. His life came to a tragic end when the ship sank during the Battle of Lissa.

This dramatic episode was immortalized in verse by his friend the poet Sebastiano Barozzi, in the thirty-eighth chapter of his epic work "Chronicle of the people during the redemption of Italy". The poem captures the anguish of the moment and Caffi's love for art and country, as the ship was swallowed by the rough waters.

During his lifetime, Ippolito Caffi was able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle thanks to the sale of his paintings, many of which were replicated and purchased by European nobles, including even the Prince of Austria.

Caffi's art, although inspired by eighteenth-century Venetian models, managed to bring a touch of modernity to the world of pictorial views. He explored new points of view, creating fascinating nocturnal scenes, and tackled unusual themes, such as hot air balloon flights, which stood out for their originality.

Although his talent was recognized during his lifetime, Ippolito Caffi had to wait until the mid-1960s to gain the recognition he deserved from art historians. His revaluation occurred thanks to a large exhibition organized in Venice on the occasion of the centenary of his death. It is important to note that a significant part of his vast artistic production has unfortunately been lost over time, but his contribution to art remains indelible in history.

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