Camille Corot (French, 1796–1875)
Oil on paper laid down on wood
10 1/2 x 12 1/8 in. (26.7 x 30.8 cm)
Stamped (lower right): VENTE / COROT
The Whitney Collection, Promised Gift of Wheelock Whitney III, and Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh, by exchange, 2003 (2003.42.13)
Painters visited Rome and the surrounding Campagna to record the natural beauty and antique monuments. The waterfall known as the Cascate delle Marmore epitomizes both, having been engineered by order of the Roman consul M. Curius Dentatus in 271 B.C. to divert the river Velino into the Nera, a tributary of the Tiber. Corot visited the site between July and September 1826, during a brilliant sketching campaign across southern Umbria through the villages of Papigno, Terni, and Narni. He recorded a number of views in which light and shade are balanced in an almost relieflike fashion, but this view is the only one in which the upper falls are seen close-up and at an oblique angle. The focus of the composition is the area of pure white at the fugitive spot where the water passes over the edge, but the majority of the sheet is devoted to lush, shady surfaces sketched quickly in broad strokes with an alternately loaded or thinned brush. In contrast, the strip of high country above and beyond the falls is sharply rendered, albeit softened by atmospheric perspective.