Oil on canvas, 1852
Peter Kohlbeck (German, active 1850-1878)
Kohlbeck took this composition from the original painting by the famous German historical painter Christian Ruben, circa 1840. It has been copied by countless artists over the years. Washington Irving used an engraving of the scene to illustrate his famous volumes on The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, published in 1892.
The story unfolds with Columbus and crew on deck watching intently for any sign of land. At about 10:00 p.m. the Admiral saw a faint moving light off in the distance. The moon was up and at about 2 p.m. a sailor, watching from the Pinta, spotted a sandy shore. The fears of the crew were banished with joyous anticipation as they awaited the dawn. The cry of “land” was shouted from ship to ship. The greatest landfall in history had taken place.