The work was painted in Sesto Calende, a village on the southern end of Lake Maggiore, as can be seen by comparing it with the painting Sesto Calende (reproduced in La quadreria dell’800 nella raccolta N. Poggi, 1941), which shows the same view.
Presumably painted between 1886 and 1888, the years in which the artist presented canvases dedicated to the same place in national exhibitions, it demonstrates his full assimilation of the modes of Lombard naturalism. Having trained at the Academy in Naples, Achille Befani moved to Milan in the early 1860s under the pseudonym of Formis, which he had already used during his brief career as a singer.
In the Lombard capital, he had attended courses at Brera and immediately devoted himself to country painting, with a particular predilection for rural and lake subjects, a genre which, in the 1970s, he would often alternate with oriental motifs, the result of various stays in Turkey and Egypt.
The simplified draftsmanship that distinguishes this landscape, with short, dense, full-bodied touches of colour that seem to reproduce the physical consistency of nature, shows the artist far from the more finished manner typical of his works of the early 1970s, and fully in line with the en plein air research carried out in the same years by artists such as Filippo Carcano and Eugenio Gignous.
In tune with these trends, Formis also displays absolute mastery in his treatment of light and chromatic values, in his desire to capture, far from academic formulas, in deep communion with nature, a given place at a unique and unrepeatable moment. In a manner typical of him, the artist lowers the point of view so as to give maximum prominence to the water.
This allows him to establish a refined play of pearly counterpoints between sky and earth in the landscape, which, by sprinkling the greens and browns of the natural scrubland, renders the humid atmosphere of the lake environment extraordinarily well.
The secondary role of the three men intent on setting the sail on a boat is also evident: an image that is not pretty but absolutely everyday, in which the human presence is nothing more than an integral part of the landscape, and the very clear sail with its reflections an expedient to push up the luminous values of the composition.