Artist to Know: Viviano Codazzi

Liz Catalano
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Two 17th-Century Paintings of Italian Architecture Available at Showplace

Long before artists such as Salvador Dalí and Giorgio de Chirico ushered in Surrealism, Italian painter Viviano Codazzi blended the real with the fantastical. Codazzi lived during the 1600s. The Italian Renaissance had already faded. Mannerism followed, and Codazzi came of age alongside the Baroque style. He specialized in architectural landscapes, including dramatic ruins that sought harmony rather than realism. Though he remains relatively unknown compared to the titans of the Italian Renaissance, Codazzi’s contemporaries sought out his work. Now, his paintings offer a glimpse into a world that is part imagined and part lost to time. 

This summer, Showplace will offer two Baroque paintings from Viviano Codazzi. The auction will begin at 12:00 PM EDT on July 11th, 2021. Learn more about Codazzi before the sale starts.

Viviano Codazzi and Michelangelo Cerquozzi, Colosseum and Arch of Constantine. Image from Piraneseum.
Viviano Codazzi and Michelangelo Cerquozzi, Colosseum and Arch of Constantine. Image from Piraneseum.

Though Viviano Codazzi was born in the northern city of Bergamo, he spent his early years in Naples. Codazzi grew up around the city’s art scene and received professional art training at a young age. He learned the intricacies of perspective and embraced a tempered version of the popular Baroque style. 

Following the trends of his time, Codazzi turned to Dutch painters for inspiration. Several of them set up workshops in Rome in the early 1600s. The Italian and Dutch artists often exchanged techniques during this time. Northerners often associated Codazzi with the Bamboccianti group of genre painters who followed the imported Dutch style. However, Codazzi mainly stayed at the edges of the group. He independently blended geometry, dramatic lighting, imagined elements, and everyday life in his works. 

Codazzi differentiated himself by pairing idealized architectural landscapes with tiny figure scenes. He often hired specialized painters— such as Domenico Gargiulo, Filippo Lauri, and Michelangelo Cerquozzi— to place people in the foreground of his paintings. The figures look almost out of place against Codazzi’s ruins and Classical arches. The juxtaposition fascinated the artist’s patrons and the local art scene.

“Who was Viviano Codazzi?” writes David R. Marshall in his 1993 survey of Codazzi’s work. “The simple answer is that he was the most important seventeenth century painter of the type of architectural view better known from the works of [Giovanni Paolo Panini].” The latter artist created vedute paintings (sweeping city views) with aspects of capriccio, or architectural fantasy. Panini followed in Codazzi’s footsteps in the early 18th century.

Viviano Codazzi’s capriccio painting (lot #50). Image from Showplace.
Viviano Codazzi’s capriccio painting (lot #50). Image from Showplace.

For years, scholars neglected Codazzi. Italian critics viewed the artist as too specialized and not worth mentioning in biographies or historical surveys. Information about Codazzi’s life slowly seeped into obscurity and is now mostly lost. Recently, historians have treated Codazzi more gently. 18th-century Italian, French, and Spanish painters openly found inspiration in his work. 

Two oil paintings by Codazzi will be available with Showplace in July. Each capriccio piece depicts towering arches, detailed pillars, and strong shadows. In the first (lot #49), a tall archway and partially-finished brick wall suggest a grand structure from the past. A red-clothed figure greets a small dog in the shadows. In the second piece (lot #50), the pictured architecture is complete and features Baroque details. The light in both paintings suggests a dreamlike afternoon. Each lot has a presale estimate of USD 5,000 to $7,000. 

At auction, Codazzi’s paintings typically range in price from EUR 5,000 to €15,000 (USD 5,975 to $17,900). Several of his works have sold above those prices in recent years. Italian auction house Cambi Casa D’Aste offered Codazzi’s Arrival at the Palace with an estimate of EUR 50,000 to €60,000 (USD 59,600 – $71,550) in 2017. The piece sold for EUR 120,000 (USD 143,050), challenging the artist’s auction record. Sotheby’s set that price in a 2006 Milan sale after a Codazzi painting achieved EUR 156,000 (USD 186,000).

Viviano Codazzi, Arrival at the Palace. Image from Cambi Casa D’Aste.
Viviano Codazzi, Arrival at the Palace. Image from Cambi Casa D’Aste.

A revolt in Naples temporarily drove Codazzi from the city in 1647. Amid the upheaval, he never received payment for his in-progress paintings. Codazzi fell into poverty and died in 1670. He left behind a thriving circle of followers and apprentices, many of whom went on to create capriccio paintings of their own. Codazzi also had two sons, Niccolò and Antonio, who became painters and carried on the family legacy. Recent scholarship and auction results suggest that Viviano Codazzi may soon have a renaissance of his own. 

Showplace will present two Baroque oil paintings by Viviano Codazzi in the upcoming New York City Estate Auction on July 11th, 2021. The sale will begin at 12:00 PM EDT. To view the complete catalog and place a bid, visit Bidsquare

Looking for more artist profiles? Check out Auction Daily’s coverage of contemporary British artist Jadé Fadojutimi.

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