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Study for Mural at U.S. Custom House, Cleveland, OH, "Passing Commerce Pays Tribute to the Port of Cleveland"

1909 Kenyon Cox Born: Warren, Ohio 1856 Died: New York, New York 1919 oil and pencil on canvas 21 1/4 x 15 1/4 in. (54.0 x 38.8 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Ambrose Lansing 1983.114.5 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 35B

Luce Center Label

This study shows Kenyon Cox’s plan for a mural above the fireplace in the office of Cleveland’s Collector of Customs. Cox chose an allegorical scene to represent the city’s booming economy. Mercury, god of commerce, drops golden coins into the lap of an allegorical figure of Cleveland, shown as an idealized woman. Cox used a grid system to translate the image onto a much larger canvas, which would be installed in an elaborately carved frame on the wall. He decided on a color scheme to match the dark brown wood of the walnut walls and the purple marble of the chimney mantle, explaining that “It seemed best to make the decoration a spot of brilliant color in its rich and quiet surroundings.” (Morgan, Kenyon Cox, 1856-1919: A Life in American Art, 1994)


Allegory - arts and sciences - transportation

Allegory - place - Cleveland

Figure group

Landscape - Ohio - Cleveland



paint - oil


fabric - canvas

About Kenyon Cox

Born: Warren, Ohio 1856 Died: New York, New York 1919

More works in the collection by
Kenyon Cox