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The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge

1829 Thomas Cole Born: Bolton-le-Moor, England 1801 Died: Catskill, New York 1848 oil on canvas 35 3/4 x 47 3/4 in. (90.8 x 121.4 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Katie Dean in memory of Minnibel S. and James Wallace Dean and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program 1983.40 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing

Gallery Label

Thomas Cole painted the American wilderness as a new Eden, a paradise untainted by the mistakes and sins of the Old World. The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge invokes a peaceful future for the young republic, free of the despotism of monarchs. The rocky cliffs framing the image echo the swirling waves that have just ravaged the earth. A lone skull tumbled against the rocks suggests that the world has been wiped clean of human folly. The ark waits in the calm, luminous water, poised to carry a reborn people into a new and more enlightening age symbolized by the mountainous sanctuary in the distance.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Architecture - boat - Noah's Ark

Disaster - flood

Figure - fragment - skull

Landscape - mountain

Religion - Old Testament - Noah


paint - oil

fabric - canvas