Already well established as a painter of American landscapes, in 1829 Thomas Cole moved to Europe for three years. To succeed as something more than a painter of American scenes, he felt, would require seeing firsthand works by the old masters and famous landscapes of the Old World. He said the subject of this painting, the ancient Colosseum in Rome, was the spot that affected him most deeply among all the remnants of classical civilization he saw. Prominent Christian symbols—such as the large black cross at center—standing in the midst of pagan Rome's most celebrated structure provide an unmistakable affirmation of the triumph of Christianity over the Roman state. Cole's studies abroad transformed him and his art, leading him to pursue in an ambitious series of future paintings, the rise and fall of civilizations, the cycles of time, and the regenerative forces of nature. This work is part of the Albany Institute's premier collection of more than 500 works by Cole, founder of the Hudson River school of painting.