Acquaforte, a 500-year-old artistic tradition


Acquaforte refers to both the traditional process that creates etched images and the acid that makes it possible. 

Acquaforte (meaning ‘strong water’) is the term for nitric acid, a colorless corrosive liquid that engravers use to cut designs into metal.

To create an engraving, the engraver begins by preparing a thin copper plate and lathering it with a waxy acid-resistant coating. Using a magnifying glass and an array of fine steel-tipped tools, he painstakingly carves the design into the metal matrix, thereby removing the acid-resistant coating in just the etched lines. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath which bites into the unprotected grooves while leaving the coated areas untouched. This phase is timed - shorter or longer acid contact creates different tones and nuances and highlights various planes and depths of the design. Generally darker tones require longer acid immersion. Once the last dip is complete, the plate is thoroughly cleaned and coated with specialized ink that fills the incised grooves. Any ink outside the grooves is meticulously cleaned away so that the resulting print will be crisp and accurate. The artisan manually operates a copperplate press that transfers the ink from the plate to moistened museum-quality paper. This paper is then carefully dried to a smooth, even finish. Voila – an engraving is created! The etched plate can be reused but will only make a limited number of prints. Eventually it starts to break down and becomes unusable.

Acquaforte is part art and part science, one of the most exacting engraving techniques for producing fine detail. It also has the merit of being difficult to replicate, thereby thwarting counterfeiters. With the decline of woodcuts around 1550, the Acquaforte process dominated both artistic printmaking and illustration. It was the mainstay of book and newspaper publishing until the rise of photography.  

Since the Acquaforte technique was first developed, it has intrigued and influenced some of the world’s greatest artists, from Rembrandt to Van Gogh to Matisse to Picasso. Contemporary artists and illustrators keep this tradition alive, producing signed works of art in limited editions that are treasured by art lovers.

The Raffaelli family at L'IPPOGRIFO STAMPE D'ARTE is proud to continue this ancient tradition.

IPPOGRIFO produces and sells only original graphic works of art.

Each engraving is signed and numbered by the artist, with the first number indicating the order in which the print was produced and the second number indicating the full size of the series.

Each engraving sold by L’IPPOGRIFO STAMPE D’ARTE is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity that guarantees the following:

- That the matrix was created by hand by the artist whose signature appears on the piece.

- That the engraving was printed by hand by the artist whose signature appears on the piece, using a specialized press.

- That the color application was hand painted in watercolor, with each piece being slightly different due to the variability of this process.

That each engraving is part of a limited run made from the same plate.


The hippogriff, half eagle and half horse, is a mythical creature first popularized in the 16th century. As the symbol of our establishment, every etching produced by L’IPPOGRIFO STAMPE D’ARTE can be identified by the hippogriff dry stamp seal.