Traditional craftsmanship


Sgraffito ornaments adorn numerous house facades in the Engadin, Bergell, Val Müstair and other regions of Graubünden. Popular motifs include geometric patterns, wavy ribbons, rosettes and mythological figures. Renaissance master builders brought the technique of sgraffito (from the Italian verb ‘sgraffiare’ = to etch) to Graubünden in the 16th century. Local craftsmen copied the motifs, adding their own personal touch. In this handicraft, ornaments are etched with styli and knives on a damp layer of plaster covered with a light coat of lime. This reveals the underlying, darker lime mortar. The colour of the sand and pigments added determines the shade of the plaster. Because of its relief-like structure and its high-contrast colour effect, sgrafitto is particularly suitable for decorating windows, gates, gables, bay windows and corners. Sgrafitto experienced its heyday in Graubünden in the 17th and 18th centuries. It gained new appreciation as a characteristic feature of Graubünden’s regional style at the beginning of the 20th century.

Today, craftsmen and renowned artists use the sgraffito technique in restorations and in the design of new buildings. They use traditional or modern motifs and develop their own style. Knowledge of this old handicraft is passed on in courses and seminars, which are becoming increasingly popular.

Image gallery

  • Padrun house, Andeer (2013) © Roland Zumbühl,
  • Gable (Samedan, 2017) © Silvia Conzett
  • Residential house (Ardez) © Fotostiftung Graubünden
  • Portal (Bergün, 2017) © Silvia Conzett
  • Mermaid and dragon (Cinuos-chel, S-chanf) © Fotostiftung Graubünden
  • House (Guarda, 2017) © Silvia Conzett
  • Schellenursli house (Guarda, 2017) © Silvia Conzett
  • Salis house with sgraffiti by Nicolaus Hartmann, Bever © Rätisches Museum
  • Sgraffiti by Ulrich Könz (Guarda, 2015) © Alex Winiger,
  • Sgraffiti by Steivan L. Könz (Bergün, 2017) © Silvia Conzett
  • Sgraffiti by Steivan L. Könz (Bergün, 2011) © Alex Winiger,
  • Sgraffiti by Steivan L. Könz (Ardez) © Paebi, cc BY-SA3.0, wikimedia commons
  • Schoolhouse in Samedan with sgraffiti by Giuliano Pedretti (2017) © Silvia Conzett
  • Sgraffiti by Constant Könz and Annamaria Reinalter (Brail, 2013) © Silvia Conzett
  • Sgraffiti by Constant Könz (Pontresina, 2015) © Alex Winiger,
  • Josin Neuhäusler etches a wavy ribbon © Josin Neuhäusler
  • Sgraffito course taught by Josin Neuhäusler (Susch, 2017) © Nadja Simmen, Südostschweiz


Sgraffito ©

References and documentation

  • Hans Hofmann: Sgraffito im Bergell, Engadin und Val Müstair. Chur, 1994

  • Urs Oskar Keller: Das Sgraffito: Mehr als nur Dekoration oder Volkskunst. In: Applica 17, 2007, p. 28–32

  • Iachen Ulrich Könz und Eduard Widmer: Sgraffito im Engadin und Bergell. Zürich, 1977

  • Gisela Kuoni: Fassaden voller Geheimnisse. In: TURICUM 23, Juni 1992, p. 27–32

  • Robin Schwarzenbach: Ein echtes Sgraffito aus eigener Hand. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 7. Mai 2010

  • Eine Tradition für alle Ewigkeit. In: Contura 2016/17 (

  • Sgraffito

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