Product Focus: The Course of Empire Series

The Course of Empire - Consummation

The Course of Empire series, of which we have 2 in our collection, is a collection of 5 artworks by Thomas Cole, painted between 1833–1836. The series is a reflection of American feelings at the time of painting, when many were opposed to the idea of the "empire" and believed that pastoralism was the best phase of civilisation. The series is comprised of the following artworks: The Course of Empire – The Savage StateThe Arcadian or Pastoral StateThe Course of Empire - ConsummationDestruction; and Desolation.


The Compositions

The same city is pictured throughout its lifecycle, and we can identify this from the distinct boulder sitting at the top of a crag overlooking the valley. 

The Course of Empire - Savage State is the first in the series, depicting the ideal civilisation before the landscape has been changed by humanity. The cloudy skies hint at an uncertain future for the dwelling. 

The Course of Empire - Savage State

The Arcadian or Pastoral State shows the location slightly advanced in its timeline, with much of the pervious wilderness now being cultivated and agricultural land. A temple has been built, and smoke, indicating sacrifices, have been made. The scene is that of an urban Archaic Greek civilisation, and there is harmony between the land and the people living there.

The Arcadian or Pastoral State

The Course of Empire - The Consummation shows a society at the peak of its decadence. The simple temple is now a huge complex structure, with both sides of the river built up. The river, guarded at the mouth by two pharoi, is full of ships and trade, and the crowds are gathering for a triumphal procession. The scene is reminiscent of the days of Ancient Rome at its height, and this foreshadows the inevitable fall of the civilisation.

The Course of Empire - The Consummation

The Course of Empire - Destruction the fourth in the series, shows the destruction of the city by a fleet of enemy warriors, having sailed up the river under a stormy sky. The bridge from the previous painting, the centre of a triumphal march, has been destroyed and bodies lie where they fell as fire destroys the palace to the right. The destruction of Rome by the Vandals is likely the inspiration for this scene.

The Course of Empire - Destruction

The Course of Empire - Desolation is the final work in the series showing the same city decades after its destruction. The remains of the city are still present, and highlighted by a moonrise and the dying day. The wilderness has overtaken the city again, and no humans are visible, although evidence of their architecture are visible under the trees and overgrowth. The gloomy atmosphere is a warning for how all empires may be after their fall, where the human civilisation has been destroyed by its own hand.

 The Course of Empire - Desolation

The Artist

Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole was born in Lancashire in the north of England in 1801 and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1818, settling in Ohio, although he moved to New York in 1825, where he lived with his family until his death in 1848. Cole is most known for being a painter of landscapes, although one of his most famous series, The Course of Empire, sits among his allegorical works. The New York Historical Society obtained the Empire series and it remains in their collection today.

Founder Insight

"The Course of Empire series was a natural theme for us to look at when selecting our next pocket square and lining collections, rich and dramatic pieces that are sure to stir one's emotions. These truly epic works by Thomas Cole sit beautifully in our range and have become instant best sellers as well as personal favourites. We've also received a number of interesting emails from customers with comments on how our own society sits so delicately between the Consummation and Destruction phases!"

Elliott Rampley, Co-Founder

What Makes Our Silk So Special?

1. We use the finest mulberry silk with our silk pocket squares and linings. The quality of the fabric can be seen in the texture and the level of detail and vibrancy of the finished product. All our silks are printed in Macclesfield, England, an area renowned for silk printing for the past 200 years.
The Course of Empire Consummation Pocket Square Fold
2. We take the utmost care in printing our silk pocket squares and linings which results in truly remarkable levels of detail. Faces, objects and colours are sharp and well defined to give a truly stunning finish. We also take exceptional care with the colour bleed, so the print is almost as crisp on the back as it is on the front, allowing for an unlimited number of folds to a pocket square.
The Course of Empire Consummation Detail
3. The art of hand rolling pocket squares is a unique craft and truly makes each piece individual and unique. We feel that the precision and care taken by our skilled artisans gives each square its own unique character, finish and feel. To create the finest rolled hems, the edge of the silk must be softy turned over with a handheld needle and then small stitches are inserted approximately one half to one centimetre apart around the edge, creating a supple yet prominent border.
The Course of Empire Destruction Hand Rolled Edges
4. We believe that 40cm is the minimum size for a high quality pocket square. Any smaller and it will slide down inside your pocket with any movement of your jacket, while it limits the number of folds you can achieve as there is not enough volume to hold it in place. It goes without saying we would never advocate any form of pocket square holder. All our pocket squares are either 42cm x 42cm or 40cm x 40cm.

The Course of Empire Destruction Pocket Square Fold