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"[Louis-François] Cassas's drawings are unusually beautiful. I have stolen a lot of ideas from him," wrote the Romantic writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The well-known waterfalls at Terni, forty miles north of Rome, were a popular subject for artists, who often drew them as souvenirs for tourists. Cassas took the opportunity to depict nature's might, a favorite subject of Neoclassical landscapists aiming to convey the concept of the Sublime. To ensure that viewers felt awestruck by the power of the rushing waters, Cassas inserted tiny people in antique costume gesturing in amazement at the spectacle. He also enhanced the cataract's grandeur by choosing a low viewpoint.

References to antiquity were typical in the work of Neoclassical artists, but the ancient figures here also may refer to the falls' origin, when Roman irrigation diverted the Velino River into the Nera in 271 B.C.

The decorative surround appears on the same sheet of paper as the drawing itself, implying that before Cassas put pen to paper, he intended to set his composition within an ornamental frame.

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