Thomas Cole envisioned America as a new start for civilization. In his mind, the American Revolution was like the biblical story of the Great Flood, sweeping away the despotism of the British Crown. In this painting the waters from that Flood subside, suggesting a peaceful future for the young republic. A lone skull resting against the rocks suggests that the world has been washed clean of human folly. At the center of the painting, bathed in light, a dove flies toward land as the ark floats on the calm waters, ready to usher in a new and more enlightened era in America.
(Text courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum).