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1. Thunderclouds roll out of the landscape to reveal a bright sky beyond. As in the contemporaneous Course of Empire, Cole visualizes the dramatic cycle of nature.
2. A blasted tree trunk represents the untamed wilderness.
3. The right side of the composition depicts the cultivated river valley inhabited by farmers.
4. The loop in the river (also known as Hockanum Bend) is nicknamed "The Oxbow" because its shape resembles the bowed wooden collar of a yoked ox.
5. This is a presumed self-portrait of Cole seated on the mountaintop, which proclaims the artist's affinity with untamed nature.
6. Cole signs his name on the artist's portfolio, and the stool is very similar to the one he actually used on his sketching trips, now in the collection of Cedar Grove. See also Cole's portable paint box. Interestingly, the protruding umbrella, used by Cole to shade himself while sketching, connects the two sides of the composition, which otherwise stand in dramatic opposition.
7. Some historians interpret the markings in the cleared mountain as Hebrew letters that spell "Noah" or, viewed from upside-down, "Shaddai" (the Old Testament word for "the Almighty"). This interpretation suggests that Cole recognized the potential beauty of the civilized landscape and used it to evoke a pre-industrial Holy Land. By carving a sacred name into the landscape, Cole also may have intended to identify God as the true artist of nature.