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Belluno 1809 – Battle of Lissa 1866
Nocturnal Feast on the Waterfront at San Marco
Tempera on paper, 17,5 x 27,5 cm
Signed lower right: Caffi
This nighttime scene by Ippolito Caffi, probably painted to capture one of the typical popular festivities in the lagoon city such as the Redentore or the ancient tradition of Lent “burning the old witch”, depicts one of the best known corners of Venice in a magical nocturnal setting.
Caffi was unquestionably drawn by this subject because of what it permitted him to achieve in connection with his ceaseless search for “novelty”: light, shadow, refraction, perspective, emotion, the whole translated into colour, matter and texture. As with other favourite themes of his, so here too the nighttime setting stimulates him, lures him on, allows him to play with the spaces and atmospheres to produce visions of a rarefied, dreamlike quality.
It is worth underscoring the panoramic view, whose breadth serves to impart a vast embracing sweep to the image and to allow the artist to describe the myriad events taking place on that magical night, between the city’s monumental heart, the water of the lagoon and the sky, where the moon peeps out from among the clouds, its light vying with the glow coming from the land and the water. The painter shows, as he has done on other occasions, that he owns an astonishing descriptive strength and is possessed of outstanding talent and skill in modulating the light effects coming from different sources and situations in the vast spectrum of this view, almost with the dizzying effect of a firework display.