Painted in 1856, the present work depicts the city of Washington as seen from across the Anacostia River. Visible in the distance are several monuments that would have been present at this time and a result of the ‘L’Enfant Plan’. From left to right MacLeod depicts the half-completed Washington Monument, the Department of the Treasury, the Norman style “Castle” of the Smithsonian Institution that was completed one year earlier, the original flat dome of the Capitol, which was replaced with the present dome in 1863, and the Navy Yard. The figure sketching in the foreground is believed to be a self-portrait of the artist.
The artist painted another version of View of the City of Washington from the Anacostia Shore in 1856, which is in the collection of The White House, Washington, D.C. It varies slightly from the present work in the placement of the cows and the inclusion of an umbrella next to the figure sketching in the foreground. MacLeod painted a smaller version of this view twelve years earlier, which is in the collection of The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Washington, D.C., and depicts the Capitol as it appeared after the building’s completion in 1827.
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