Born in Belluno in 1809, Ippolito Caffi is considered to be the most important early 19th Century vedutista since the great view painters of the 17th Century, namely Canaletto, Guardi and Bellotto. As a native of the area around Venice, it is no surprise that views of Venice constitute a major portion of his artistic production. However, after receiving training at the local Academy in Venice, Caffi moved to Rome in 1832 and acquired immediate fame as a vedutista. From Rome, he traveled from 1843-44 to such exotic locales as Eygpt, Greece and Turkey looking to expand his repertory of subjects outside of his native country.
Caffi was one of the few artists fascinated with depicting night views with some form of artificial or lunar illumination. The present work with its impressive display of fireworks over the Castel Sant'Angelo documents the annual Girandola, a spectacular fireworks display sponsored by the Papacy since 1471. These pyrotechnic displays which drew enormous crowds of spectators were held on Easter as well as on the eve of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Caffi's painting captures the dramatic finale where rockets, set off from the roof of the Castel, illuminate the night sky thereby emphasizing the play of light on the architecture and figures.