Thomas Cole: The Course of Empire (1833)

English-American painter Thomas Cole (1801 – 1848) created a series of five images depicting the rise and the destruction of an imaginary coastal city. The series is entitled “The Course of Empire”. Above, the fourth painting depicts the catastrophe and destruction of the city. Cole imagined here a junction of various man made and natural disasters: Insurgence, war, fires, storms and a flood.

In the final, fifth image the scene is set several decades after the destruction. Here nature has reclaimed the urban landscape and there is a peaceful, maybe even idyllic calm to the scene. From today’s point of view, this seems like an environmentalist comment on our current debates.

Rebuilding Mankind out of rocks

In the Greek myth of Decalion and Pyrrha, the couple recreates mankind after the universal deluge by throwing rocks over their shoulders to let them grow into men and women. Why rocks? And why over their shoulders? Is this how a community, a city is rebuilt?
Ovid concludes in his Metamorphosis that mankind – the second one, so to say – is hard and enduring becasue it is made out of rock.

Painting by Domenico Beccafumi from the 16. Century

Italy; 16. Century; 1. Century AD; Pagan; Painting; Text; Myth

Etude of Drowning

Gédéon Reverdin: Étude dessinée d’après le tableau d’une Scène de Déluge peint par A.L. Girodet (1828).

Here is the original painting by Girodet from 1806.

The rescueing flood

This painting shows a scene from early buddhist texts from the 3. and 4. Century AD: When Mara, the God of Death, attacked Siddhattha, Siddhattha called on Vasundhara, also referred to as Bhumi or Mother Earth, to save him. Vasundhara creates a massive flood by wringing her long hair and ths drowning all the adversaries. Here Siddhattha, later to become Buddha, can be seen seated and meditating in a small tower high above the flood created by Vasundhara. The image is from the 19. Century. As Christian Rohr notes, the image of Vasundhara wringing her hair is particularly popular in modernity. Today it is a popular talisman in Thailand and Burma.

Thailand; 3. Century AD; Buddhist; Painting, Sculpture

The Destruction of “The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum”

John Martin’s oil painting, acquired by Tate Gallery London in 1869, imagines the extent of the disaster that famously beset the sister cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum when the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted on 24 August AD 79.
The painting was first exhibited in 1822. In 1928 the painting was in basement storage when the Tate was severly affected by the Thames flood. The picture was badly damaged and effectively written off but was extensively restored in 2011. (Text quoted from Tate Gallery Website)

Thanks to Theresa Deichert for the tip!

UK; 19. Century; 21. Century; Christian; Painting; City: London

Disaster Movies and Art History

In this image from the disaster movie “2012” (200) the visual style is clearly remeniscent of Rennaissance and medieval paintings. This shot in particular reminds me of depictions of Golgatha.

USA; 21. Century; Christian; Film; Art History;

Evariste Vital Luminais: Flight of King Gradlon

Painting from 1884 depicting the flight of the king from the sinking city of Ys.

France; 19. Century; Chistian; Painting; City: Ys