The Digital Piranesi
This page was created by Alexis Kratzer. The last update was by Jeanne Britton.
View of the Small Waterfalls in Tivoli
The site’s ruins provided ample subject matter for Piranesi’s architectural etchings, which complete the remainder of this volume of the Vedute di Roma. Vernet, though, did not depict the villa’s ruins; considered along with the rarity of Piranesi’s landscape views, the divergences between these two acquaintances is clear. A comparison of their painting and etching of waterfalls, though, additionally demonstrates Piranesi’s methods for conveying tone and texture.
In Vernet's painting, a lush tree on the left emerges from behind the broken branches of another, and its abundant foliage thoroughly blocks the contour of the cliffs behind it. In Piranesi’s etching, the tree on the left is set off against a blank sky, its gnarled branches either reaching their ends in dark, scratched bunches or dissolving into faint, wispy lines. Biographers place their visit in Spring, as Vernet’s greenery might confirm, but Piranesi’s image suggests a less welcoming landscape. At the center of the images, Vernet’s water falls into gentle foam, while Piranesi’s varied lines dramatize water’s movement, particularly to the left of the cascade. Boundaries between water, rock, and land are lost amid the undulating strokes of Piranesi’s etching needle. The drama he brings to this landscape view, with its foreboding tone and its textural variety, carries over into the views of ruined structures that follow in the volume. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.