Thomas Cole, 1801–1848, Destruction, about 1833–1836
- 100% Silk
- 118cm x 98cm
- Designed and Printed in Britain
The Course of Empire is a series of five paintings depicting the rise and fall of an imaginary city, representing humanity as a whole. The painting Destruction, the fourth in the series, shows the complete destruction of the city while a storm rages in the background. The location is distinctly identifiable in each of the paintings, in part because of an unusual landmark: a large boulder is situated atop a crag overlooking the valley. It seems that a fleet of enemy warriors has overthrown the city's defenses, sailed up the river, and is ransacking the city and killing its inhabitants. A statue stands headless, still striding forward into the uncertain future. A detail in the lower right of the third painting in the series, "The Consummation of Empire", shows two children, maybe brothers, fighting, one clad in red and the other in green - the colours of banners of the two contending forces in "Destruction," which thus might depict a foreshadowed civil war. The children, now men, are shown, with one having finally prevailed over the other but seemingly in contemplation of the heavy price paid.
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