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1. Manmade structures now cover the mountain, which is completely subject to human domination.
2. Of the five paintings in the series, The Consummation of Empire was most influenced by Cole's trip to Europe in 1829-32. The Greek Doric temple contains pediment sculptures depicting a hunting scene like that in The Savage State. Cole copied the central figure of Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt, from the Hellenistic sculpture Diana of Versailles, which he would have seen in Paris.
3. The 1830s saw a period of intense debate between the populist Democratic party and the elitist Federalist party over how the United States should be governed. Cole, who identified strongly with his aristocratic patrons, supported the Federalists. Some historians believe that this image of a grandiose ruler entering the city in an elephant-drawn car may be an unflattering allusion to the then-current Democratic president, Andrew Jackson.
4. Spears and other military garb suggest a thoroughly militarized society.
5. The statue of Athena symbolizes war and victory.
6. A philosopher stands surveying the scene. Cole's signature carved into the stone suggests that he identified with this figure's detached observation.
7. The potted plant symbolizes human control over nature. The vase is modeled after a Greek vessel known as the Borghese Vase, in the collection of the Louvre, which Cole may have seen in Europe.
8. The two boys prefigure events to come: while it appears that the children are playing amicably, the older boy is actually sinking his playmate's toy ship.
9. A scholar records history as it happens, parallel to Cole's role in creating another kind of record through pictures.
10. A fountain represents human manipulation and diminishment of the natural elements.
11. Brass trumpets replace the simple flutes of the pastoral state, suggesting a shrill and overblown quality to the cultural developments of the era.