Piranesi’s preparatory drawing above demonstrates that the tree and heavily wooded hunting grounds were the anchoring elements of the etching’s composition. As a framing device, these overgrown, massive trees create an ominous tone and encourage a viewer’s intimate yet somewhat uneasy encounter with the landscape. The close-ups below of the tree on the right reveal the force with which Piranesi put burin to copperplate and, in the incredible thickness of the lines, the painterly quality of his etching technique.
As Piranesi furiously etches into metal, so does the jagged tree powerfully cut across the grounds. Here, Wilton-Ely notes, the “placid walks and terraces of the Baroque formal garden at Villa Pamphili are transformed by Piranesi into an image of potency … a network of turbulent shadows and menacing foliage.” This type of image is almost “inconceivable,” especially when compared to Piranesi’s contemporaries, such as this small veduta by Giuseppe Vasi (Wilton-Ely 1978, 43).