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Thomas Cole
The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge
1829
oil
35 3/4 x 47 5/8 in.
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



From within the shadowy mouth of a great cavern, a bright light illuminates the rocky overhang, water, and sky. In the distance, an ark floats upon a calm sea and a tiny dove wings its way from shore. Water cascades down at the left, streams more slowly, and overflows the tidal pool at the lower edge of the painting. At the brink of this small waterfall is a skull. Cole believed that America was the “new Eden,” washed clean of the monarchic despotism of Europe.