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The art of Caffi and what he makes us wonder about

An exhibtion of Ippolito Caffi’s seascapes and cityscapes, the vedute – as this subgenre is known in Italian – has just closed at the Correr Museum of Venice. The breathtaking views transported you not only to places, but moments captured in the brushstrokes of the Venetian artist.

Masterpieces have the power to capture with more fidelity what our eyes see, more so than any photos we can take with the ubiquitous smartphones. That’s why paintings like Caffi’s delight us.

What makes Caffi’s oeuvre stand out in the vast universe of art? Not only the brilliance of conception but also the mastery of execution. It is the extraordinary capacity to reproduce the effects of lighting. It is all there. The magic of a sunset over the Rialto bridge or St. Mark’s Square in Venice. The endless sky over the Bosphorus or the melancholy sights of Constantinople seen from the Armenian camp across the Marmara. And the gloomy, colorful Grand Bazaar of the capital of three empires.

Caffi was also an Italian patriot and died at the age of 59 in the battle of Lissa against Austria in 1866. In today’s world, he would probably be selling his paintings to tourists in the streets of Italian cities. Those sunsets and fleeting skies over Athens and Rome, the Red Sea and the Venetian lagoon, still occur every day, in their unique iterations. But the seascape and landscape paintings are now vastly underrated, because art has moved on. Or has it?


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