The Landing of Columbus

  • John Vanderlyn, The Landing of Columbus, ca. 1840, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of I. Austin Kelly III, 1971.5

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This painting is an oil sketch for the Landing of Columbus in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. Winning a commission from Congress meant a great deal to nineteenth-century artists because, as well as ensuring their reputation, it allowed them to play a part in shaping the nation's history. This painting shows the moment, on October 12, 1492, when Columbus and his men landed on the island of San Salvador and claimed all of the New World for Spain. John Vanderlyn spent a great deal of time working on this piece, and even traveled to the West Indies to make sure every detail of his painting was accurate. (Schoonmaker, John Vanderlyn, Artist, 1775-1852; A Biography, 1950)

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"My picture in the Rotunda is admitted to be inferior to none, if not superior." The artist, 1839, quoted in Schoonmaker, John Vanderlyn, Artist, 1775-1852; A Biography, 1950
The Landing of Columbus
ca. 1840
27 3/8 x 40 1/4 in. (69.5 x 102.3 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of I. Austin Kelly III

Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Occupation – other – explorer
  • History – United States – discovery of United States
  • Ethnic – Indian
  • Waterscape – boat
  • Portrait male – Columbus, Christopher
  • Figure group
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI