Lot 35
  • 35

Frederic Edwin Church

200,000 - 300,000 USD
519,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Frederic Edwin Church
  • South American Landscape (Study for Chimborazo)
  • oil on canvas


Private collection (sold: Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, April 29, 1976, lot 34)
Gloria and Richard Manney, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Berry-Hill Galleries, New York
Private collection, West Hartford, Connecticut, 1995 (acquired from the above)
Gift to the present owners from the above


New York, Berry-Hill Galleries, American Paintings VII, 1994, p. 62, illustrated p. 63

Catalogue Note

Inspired by the travels of German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, Frederic Edwin Church embarked on his first journey to South America in 1853. Captivated by the verdant foliage, snow-capped mountain peaks and thrilling atmospheric effects of light and color he encountered in Columbia and Ecuador, the artist made numerous sketches during his travels, recording in almost scientific detail the natural wonders he encountered.

Upon his return, Church sought to capture the unique and majestic beauty of the South American landscape, and the lush panoramas he subsequently painted in his New York studio are some of his most awe-inspiring works. Painted several years after his 1853 trip, South American Landscape is composed from Church's plein air sketches and memory of the landscape. It has been suggested that the present work depicts the Ecuadorian volcano, Chimborazo, which Church considered to be a spiritual symbol of the joining of heaven and earth. Similarly, the mountain was likened by Humboldt to Michelangelo’s dome at St. Peter’s and described by Church’s contemporary William Giles Dix as “one of God’s noblest works” (Dr. Gerald L. Carr, In Search of the Promised Land: Paintings by Frederic Edwin Church, New York, 2000, p. 67).

In South American Landscape, the mountainous volcano presides over a sun-lit lava plateau whose sparse vegetation contrasts with a lush and vibrant foreground. The rosy clouds in the cool blue sky, the peaceful precipice towards the left, and the serene surface of the snow on the volcano “impart an effect of preciousness to the entire scene” (Carr, p. 67). According to Dr. Gerald L. Carr, the present work is likely a preparatory study for the painting of corresponding title and subject now in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, of which he writes, “That the painting was composed and completed just a few months before his second journey [to South America], in 1857, is interesting. Here, as with two or three other South American studio paintings by him of 1856-57, one can discern effects that prophesy the sweep and heightened drama of his works, both of North and South American subjects, of the late 1850’s and 1860’s. In this instance, the rugged geology, the strong silhouette of the [cliff] (crowned by a church) at the left, and the botanical richness of the foreground are noteworthy.”