Caffi painted the first version of Pope Pius IX Blessing St Peter's Square in 1848, just before leaving Rome for Venice, to take part in the fight against the Austrians. He then exhibited the picture for the first time while in Venice and, after it met with great success from the public, he decided to paint other versions. Painted in 1857, the present work is therefore one of the latter versions, and painted shortly after the artist’s return to Rome in 1855.
Caffi was constantly interested in scientific advances, including photography and hot-air balloons, both of which allowed panopticon views from high viewpoints as in the present work. It was in Rome that Caffi developed his own personal style, departing from the vedutismo prevalent among artists in Venice. In a letter to his friend Tessari, Caffi stresses the importance of working in plein air versus in the studio as in Venice: ‘[…] when one compares one of their views with reality, not only is the former without character, but it also feels like the portrayal of some fine baroque object’ (Caffi. luci del Mediterraneo, exh.cat, 2005, Milan, p. 46).
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