This preliminary sketch demonstrates that Cole first planned for a large fountain in the form of a lion to anchor the right side of the composition. In the completed version of Destruction, a headless statue, based on the Borghese Gladiator, replaces the fountain. This substitution makes for a much more troubling depiction of all-out warfare. (Note the lion fountain has become a tiny detail in the lower right corner.) Comparisons of preliminary sketches with Cole's completed pictures indicate just how hard he worked to create the right visual effects for his dramatic series. The artist in fact struggled in every phase of his work on The Course of Empire. In 1836, he pleaded with Durand to send him a plaster model of a "little fighting gladiator" to aid him in composing this figure. 1 Examples of Cole's plaster models survive in the Cedar Grove collection.
1. Thomas Cole, <cite>First Sketch for the 4th Picture of the Course of Empire</cite>, pen and brown ink over pencil on paper, c. 1835-6, 7 ¼ x 10 7/16 in. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, William H. Murphy Fund, 39.352.
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2. Thomas Cole, <cite>The Course of Empire: Destruction</cite>, oil on canvas, 1836, 39 ½ x 63 ½ in. Collection of The New-York Historical Society, 1858.4.