Culture by Rosa Maria Lamberti
Mendelssohns Water Color from Lake Como
Cari amici, dear friends of Lake Como! The excellent pianist, composer and painter Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (03. Feb.1809 – 04.Nov.1847) was one of the artists who enthusiastically shared the beauty of Lake Como.
In 1832, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy wrote in the last of his Italian travel letters: “But believe me, the Italian lakes are not the least importance in the country. I’ve never seen anything better.”*
He describes his fear that the memory of the mountains he had seen in his childhood would be too powerful and he continued:
“But as I saw the first heights of the Alps on Lake Como, shrouded in their clouds, only bright snow and sharp black peaks glancing here and there, and rushing steeply down into the lake, first with trees and villages, then with moss covered, then bare and desolate, and full of splits of snow, for the first time I was in the same mood as then and I saw that I had not exaggerated anything.”*
Honeymoon on Lake Como
The artist was so impressed with Lake Como that he returned in June 1837. Mendelssohn and his young wife Cécile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud spent their honeymoon on the Lario.
You see, amici, even then Lake Como considered a romantic location for wedding couples.
Cécile journalized on 22nd of July 1837 that Mendelssohn Bartholdy worked already early in the morning intensively on a Cadenabbia watercolor.
This work was not among the 50 identified Mendelssohn watercolors in his inheritance. It counted as lost.
Successful detective work
Though there was a watercolor by the artist with the labeling “Blick auf Thun” (View on Thun) in the Berlin State Library.
The director of the Mendelssohn House Museum in Leipzig, Mrs. Cornelia Thierbach, found thanks her systematic detective search a pencil drawing, labeled “Cadenabbia“, which matched definitely with the watercolor.
This pencil drawing was dated by Mendelssohn himself on 22nd of July 1837 and labeled “Cadenabbia”. It showed the same motive as the watercolor “Blick auf Thun”. Thus, the previously lost Cadenabbia watercolor was found.
The drawing inscribed with Cadenabbia was kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, but the matching, mislabeled watercolor in Berlin. This was the reason why the connection could not be realized for a long time.
On 03. February 2014, at the occasion of the 205th birthday of the brilliant composer and painter, the sensational find, which considered one of Mendelssohn’s most beautiful watercolors, was exhibited at the Mendelssohn House Museum in Leipzig.
In 2015, the painting was offered at Sotheby’s in London as “Fine Painting by Mendelssohn of Cadenabbia on Lake Como in Italy” and auctioned for £ 32.500.
Unfortunately, I could not find out where the watercolor is currently located and if it is shown to the public.
Allora amici, you can experience Cadenabbia on Lake Como at any time. For me is this just as beautiful as Mendelssohn’s painting, isn‘t it? 😉
Tanti saluti e a presto
Rosa Maria Lamberti
* Quotes: travel letters by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy from the years 1830-1832 / reprint of the original from 1862 / BoD / Outlook