In this imaginary classical landscape, Christoph Heinrich Kniep conveyed nature's superhuman might as a huge waterfall dwarfing the antique figures relaxing below. Kniep enhanced the waterfall's visual impact by framing it with a shaded arch of massive boulders; his paper's immense size also emphasizes the cascade's force.

Kniep spent most of his life in Italy, where he was influenced by the sun-drenched, idealized classical landscapes of his French predecessor Claude Lorrain. Yet Kniep overlaid Claude's legacy with the late 1700s concept of the Sublime, whose purpose was to inspire a noble and lofty awe by depicting powerful natural phenomena.

Despite the drawing's large scale, Kniep rendered each element with a precision achieved, no doubt, by the "sharpening and resharpening of the best English pencils" that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had noted during their trip to Italy together in 1787 and 1788. Many of the detailed sketches Kniep made during the trip were the basis for his later, more finished, imaginary landscapes such as this one. Kniep's intense fascination with the vegetation is indicative of German Neoclassicists' burgeoning scientific interests.


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