Fresia, strapped in a harness and fastened to a tree while he paints on the edge of a cliff on Lake Como, Italy

Over six days, Jerry Fresia painted Villa La Cassinella, a home on Italy’s Lake Como associated with billionaire Richard Branson. It required him to wear a harness and paint on the edge of a cliff. 

The vertiginous view of the villa Fresia was depicting

Fresia tells the story: “I received a call from someone who was staying at the villa. She had seen a photograph of the villa and asked if I could paint a painting from the photo. I explained that I don’t work from photos, but that I would go to the villa to see if I could find something suitable. And I told her that, based upon the photo she had shown me, my guess was that the photo was taken from a helicopter. I found the location. The photo was taken from the edge of a cliff. I could understand how a photographer might get out that far and snap a photo, but to paint a painting from that position would be dangerous. I’m 66 and not especially flexible.”

Fresia’s final painting of Villa La Cassinella

The view of Fresia’s setup from the villa

The gardeners for the estate knew what to do. They are experienced in using a rope and harness to trim the tall cypress trees on the grounds, and that setup could work for the painter as well. Fresia says the system was a bit constraining, making the 35″-x-25″ painting tricky to paint. But all in all, the painting gig was a good one.

Fresia getting roped in before a painting session

“In addition to the gardeners, who also doubled as art Sherpas — they would help carry my supplies, easel, and painting to the location — the staff at the villa was very supportive and very curious,” says Fresia. “So it felt like an adventure. There were moments that were simply enchanting. I felt fortunate to have the chance to do the painting, given the perspective and the vista. It was quite a lot of fun — certainly one of the more challenging paintings I have done.”


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