May 22, 08:55 PM GMT
100,000 - 150,000 USD
(Belluno 1809 - 1866 Lissa)
VIEW OF THE COLISEUM FROM THE INTERIOR, GROUND LEVEL
signed lower right: Caffi
signed and dated on reverse of canvas: fatto nel anno 1838 Caffi
oil on paper laid down on canvas
14⅝ by 21⅞ in.; 37.1 by 55.6 cm.
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 7 July 2010, lot 244;
Ippolito Caffi moved to Rome at the beginning of the 1830s and at this time also made his first trip to Naples, where Neapolitan vedute inspired him to incorporate gray and brown into his palette. According to Mary Pittaluga, Caffi only dated paintings that were done from life, such as the present lot, and he repeated popular compositions for patrons, changing some details in later versions . A very similar view of the interior of the Coliseum belongs to the Museo di Roma, but is dated by scholars to 1857 and has a slightly higher and more distant viewpoint than the present work, suggesting it was one of these variations.
Caffi has used mid-afternoon light as the protagonist in this scene, allowing it to flood the ancient structure and capturing each shadow and nuance. As with all of his vedute, Caffi experimented with times of day when painting the Coliseum; the aforementioned similar view from 1857 has shadows that indicate late afternoon, and he also painted the amphitheater from above (1855, Museo di Roma), under a full moon (Private collection), and from the outside during a firework display (a version sold in These Rooms 28 January 2016, lot 323). The present work has more of a golden tone than Caffi’s earlier Roman scenes; combined with the stillness and lack of human presence in the scene it seems almost like a natural landscape.
The feeling of nostalgia that Caffi evokes with this image of an iconic monument was echoed by 19th century photographers, who often chose subjects and compositions to emulate paintings. Caffi frequented the Café Greco in Rome, where he would have met the Paduan photographer Giacomo Caneva (1813 – 1865). Scholars previously assumed that Caffi’s direct views of the interior of the Coliseum were inspired by Caneva’s calotypes, but in fact Caneva’s prints of this view date to 1851, over a decade after the present painting was dated. It seems more likely that the influence went both ways, as painters took ideas for new viewpoints and photographers found ways to capture images of popular landmarks in a faster, less expensive way for tourists.
1. See M. Pittaluga, Il Pittore Ippolito Caffi, Vicenza 1971.