Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Discovery of the Mississippi by William H. Powell

PD Image: Discovery of the Mississippi (1847), oil painting on canvas, dimensions 365.76 cm x 548.64 cm (144.00 in x 216.00 in) by Hernando de Soto, painting by American artist William Henry Powell (1823 - 1879) depicting de Soto seeing Mississippi River for the first time; the painting is displayed in the United States Capitol rotunda. Source: Architect of the Capitol.

Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer and conquistador, while leading the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States, was the first European documented to have crossed the Mississippi River.

William H. Powell was the last artist to be commissioned by the Congress for a painting in the Rotunda. His dramatic and brilliantly colored canvas shows Hernando de Soto, riding a white horse, the first European to view the Mississippi River in 1541. As de Soto and his troops approach, the Native Americans in front of their tepees watch, and their chief holds out a peace pipe. In the foreground is a jumble of weapons and soldiers, suggesting the attack they had suffered shortly before. To the right, a monk prays as a crucifix is set in the ground.

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