Thomas Cole (American, 1801–1848)
Oil on canvas
14 3/4 x 23 1/8 in. (37.5 x 58.7 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1903 (03.27)
Cole made the Grand Tour of Europe in 1829–32, naturally culminating in Italy, where he arrived in 1831. Just after reaching the Eternal City in February 1832, he wrote to his parents: "The things that affect me in Rome are the antiquities. None but those who can see the remains can form an idea of what Ancient Rome was." The impression the ruins made on him ultimately inspired his most ambitious landscape allegory, the five-picture Course of Empire (1834–36; New-York Historical Society), but not before he had sketched them on site again and again, not least the Aqueduct of the Roman Campagna, of which the so-called Arch of Nero is a part. More than many of the Italian subjects Cole was frequently to paint, this little painting owns a freshness and presence born of its temporal immediacy to his sketching campaign around Rome: he executed the picture in Florence just a few months after making its preparatory sketch, on which he noted: "It was morning—the distant mountains very blue."