Pietro Cappelli – Pair of Capricci

naples 1646 – 1734

pair of capricci with figures and statues before ruins

75.5 x 100 cm. each, oil on canvas


  • Literature
  • Giancarlo Sestieri,  Il Capriccio Architettonico: in Italia nel XVII e XVIII secolo, (2015), Rome, illus. Vol I, fig. 8b, p. 136. 
  • SFO Airport Museum, All Roads Lead to Rome, (2017), illus. pp. 78-9.
  • Exhibition
  • SFO Airport Museum, All Roads Lead to Rome: 17th-19th Century Souvenirs from the Collection of Piraneseum, January 24-August 13, 2017

A very richly-painted, extravagantly architectural pair of capricci, both signed, bearing comparison to the best of Cappelli’s mature work. The artist seems to have reserved his signature – Po. Cappelli ft. – for the best of his paintings and these are wonderful examples. The soft, marine sunlight catches the ancient architecture and sculpture, and people engaged in emphatic discussions just so, and very theatrically. The curved profile of the light to the left of the arched porch looks like a spotlight! These figures are unusually strong 300 years on, as are the delicate vines overgrowing the ruined stone. In fact, both canvases are unusually fresh, retaining the entirety of their original detail. As with others of his pictures, Cappelli renders the foreground architecture polychromatically, with carefully modeled (and abundant) ornament. As these buildings recede into the distance, their forms are made more gestural and color is replaced by grey-scale. And while, as usual with this artist, architecture is master, crowding out all but a single glimpse of a harbor beyond, his soft rendering of the light, typical of marine atmospheres, reminds that we must be near the sea.

The sculptures in these pictures – a bronze equestrian figure and, it appears, stone figure of Hercules – while based on ancient Roman prototypes, are largely imaginary.  Illustrated in Giancarlo Sestiari’s 2015 Il Capriccio Architettonico:in Italia nel XVII e XVIII secolo, Rome, figure 8b, p. 136, Vol I. Where before have we seen a figure of Hercules battling some terrible beast? In this catalogue’s large capriccio by Coccorante, Cappelli’s countryman and sworn enemy.  For more about Cappelli, please see our description of Capriccio with Figures before a Ruined Arcade.