Paintings | 17th Century | Pietro Cappelli | Capriccio with ancient ruins and figures | Artwork profile

99 x 74 cm
Oil on canvas


Capriccio with ancient ruins and figures

Pietro Cappelli

The subject
This painting is a magnificent example of an 18th century ‘Capriccio’, or the creation of an imaginary landscape invented entirely in the painter’s imagination and including completely fictitious buildings or existing structures taken out of their original geographic context. This genre was quite popular beginning in the late 17th century, and its sole aim was to stimulate the imagination through the creation of a dreamy, timeless environment well removed from daily life.

The painting

The painting was signed by Pietro Cappelli ( f.).

The biographical events of this artist’s life have not been studied in depth. The date of his birth is still uncertain, though he is known to have been from Rome and to have died in Naples in 1724. The second volume of “Le vite di pittori, scultori e architetti napoletani” [The lives of Neapolitan painters, sculptors and architects], a biographical narrative written in 1743 by Bernardo de Dominici, includes a brief description of Pietro Cappelli:


 “(…) His restless and slanderous nature, a great readiness in drawing and painting architecture (…)”


This famous talent is quite evident in this piece, where he manages to create a magnificent contrast between the immobile majesty (and frailty) of the ancient ruins and the lively teeming mass of human activity that takes place in the shade of these symbols of the past. Cappelli arranged the architecture with the goal of creating a sort of theatrical setting, within which he placed the actions of the characters who, being common people engrossed in their daily activities, add a subtle hint of the ‘idyllic bambocciata’ to the painting as well.