The Titan’s Goblet by Thomas Cole

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The Titan's Goblet by Thomas Cole

Painting NameThe Titan's Goblet
Painter NameThomas Cole
Completion Date1833
Size49 cm × 41 cm (19 in × 16 in)
TechniqueOil
MaterialCanvas
Current LocationMetropolitan Museum of Art (Manhattan New York United States)

The Titan’s Goblet by American artist Thomas Cole is a romantic landscape painting which combines the elements of reality and fiction into one and creates a fictional landscape with very conveying representation. It was made in 1833.

The composition

The setting of the landscape is regular with mountain ranges, setting sun, a river (or lake) and big bright sky of evening in the background. It is an aerial view of the scene.

Until this, it is a regular landscape painting. But, the point of interest in it makes the whole difference moving it from the category of landscape to the sub-categories of romantic and fictional landscape.


A big, made out of rock goblet stands slightly on the right side of the painting. It is full of water and the water is leaking from all direction in form of small streams directly falling down on the earth.

The rock goblet is in the perfect proportion for a giant’s (or a titan’s) use and that’s why the little city under its foot looks so small.

The goblet is filled with water around which seems to be living inhabitants. There is also a Greek temple and Italian palace painted on the brim of the goblet.

The composition has gained the painting title of “landscape in landscape”.

The inspiration of the subject

Thomas Cole often left writings with his painting to explain the subjects and the inspiration behind it. But, in this particular case, he hasn’t. Thus, all the work of interpreting the subject and the inspiration is left on the critics who have come up with multiple theories.

Some interprets the scene as a ‘landscape artist’s’ attempt to depict a still life in his own style. Whether other speculate the painting is inspired from the huge titans of Greek mythology. But, because Thomas Cole was a landscape artist, he modified the scene and instead of depicting full giant with a rock goblet, artist simply depicted the left-over giant goblet once used by a giant.

The setting sun also somewhat supports this theory as in paintings; a setting sun is sometimes referred as the symbol of the long time period passed. The rock goblet looks old, unused and has formed civilization on and under it. Thus, it hasn’t been used for a long time.

Although, this imaginary story could be a source of inspiration for the painting as the title itself connects with the Greek mythology, some critics reach further in mythologies and religions. There is a notion of “world tree” in many religions. The tree is supposed to support the three worlds: heaven, earth and underworld.

If we replace the goblet with the World Tree in the portrayal, it resembles to the concept of world tree. The civilization on the brim of the goblet is living like a heaven-like life. At the bottom, the new born civilization could be connected with earth and underworld life.

As the artist, hasn’t explained about the inspiration of the painting, no interpretation is going to fit for the picture as it is called as the most enigmatic painting from Thomas Cole.

The oil on canvas painting has been categorized in the style of Romanticism. It is on public display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York from the time of 1904.

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