aterfalls themselves can suggest the sublime, the confrontation between natural power and human life. People interact with water throughout the image, as the details in the gallery below show—the fisherman in the left foreground faces the viewer (detail 1), another near the illusionistic stone caption is nearly lost in the weeds (detail 2), and a small group of animals is watched by a shepherd in the distance (detail 3). Daily life at water’s edge appears unremarkable in these details. But for the figure perched precariously at the foot of the cliffs overhead, what might be habitual activity suggests the conflict between natural power and human control that Piranesi also explores in etchings of ornamental fountains.
The dark lines that form the figure’s stooped back and splayed arms are cast in high relief against the almost blank space of foaming water (detail 4). With this sharp contrast, what otherwise appears to be a rare landscape subject also hints at the thematic concerns that animate Piranesi’s other works. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.