This rare and stunning view of Lake Como was achieved by the printmaking technique known as ‘aquatint,’ with contemporary hand color gouache. Aquatint is an intaglio process, in which a copperplate is exposed to acid through a layer of melted resin. Different areas of the plate are exposed to the acid in different ways, and in this way, a skilled printmaker can create a work comprised of areas of tone, rather than just lines. The process was especially popular in the first half of the 19th century, which saw the creation of aquatint masterworks by Francisco Goya and Robert Havell’s prints for John James Audubon’s Birds of America.
Italian artist Francesco Citterio has harnessed the technique expertly for this sweeping bird’s-eye-view of Lake Como. The panorama is taken from a height above the town of Bellagio. The viewer gazes north upon a landscape of incredible beauty, the same landscape that still delights visitors today. Slightly left of center on the opposite shore we see the 18th century Villa Carlotta and its famous botanical gardens, situated in the town of Tremezzo. Further to the left lies the historic Villa del Balbianello, which overlooks the lake from the tip of the small wooded peninsula of Dosso d’Avedo.
Moving back to the middle of the panorama, slightly right of center is the town of Bellagio itself. Bellagio sits at the end of a promontory that divides Lake Como in two. This strategic placement has attracted human settlement from at least the Paleolithic Period, and ensured the town’s continuing importance over time. To the northeast on the opposite shore is the town of Varenna, which was founded by local fishermen in the 8th century.
Beyond Varenna the eye is transported further north, with the Alps emerging in the far distance. It is in the juxtaposition and interplay between lake, towering mountains, and sky that the artist’s talent is on full display.