DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

View of Arco

Watercolour and gouache on paper, 221 x 221 mm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The Italian town of Arco nestles below a dramatic hilltop castle, near the northern shore of Lake Garda. This watercolour, inscribed `Venetian Outpost', was done on Dürer's return journey from Venice in 1495 and the vegetation suggests it is the late spring. Arco lies six miles west of the main route over the Alps, which runs north from Verona and over the Brenner Pass to Innsbruck.

Close to the sandy foreground is an olive grove and a vineyard. Beyond the vineyard, to the right, lies the walled town of Arco whose fortifications snake up the steep hillside to the twelfth-century castle. view of Arco is a very carefully arranged composition, created at the expense of a certain degree of topographical truth. The narrow section of sheer rock face on the far left of the composition could not have been seen from the spot where the view was painted. Dürer also omitted the mountains behind the fortified hill to increase the drama of the setting. The painting's delicate colours - greens, browns and greys - make it one of the artist's most successful watercolours.

One of the curiosities of View of Arco is the hidden image of a scowling man which can be seen on the left side of the hill. Running almost the entire height of the cliffs, the profile of the man's face looks leftwards and his pointed nose is particularly prominent. The rocks which compose his face are slightly lighter in tone than the surrounding cliffs, emphasizing the shape. Although initially it may be difficult to spot the hidden face, once seen it is unmistakable.