COLE, Thomas
(b. 1801, Bolton-le-Moor, d. 1848, Catskill)

The Consummation of the Empire

1836
Oil on canvas, 130 x 193 cm
New York Historical Society, New York

It was in America, still in the first flush of independent nationhood and democratic pride, that one of the most impressive of the prophetic meditations on historical inevitability was painted in the Romantic period. His five-part allegory The Course of Empire (1834-36), and its accompanying printed descriptions, carried a cautionary message for his own people. In its central picture, The Consummation of Empire, the hero returning from some glorious war is an allusion to President Andrew Jackson, whose divisive and arbitrary leadership was said by his opponents to make him a modern Caesar, preparing the way for destructive internal conflict.