This lithograph, made by Currier & Ives (operational c. 1834–1907) after the work of Dióscoro Teófilo de la Puebla Tolín (1831–1901), envisions the landing of the explorer Christopher Columbus in the so-called New World of the Caribbean and the Americas. Columbus had set sail from the Canary Islands around early September in 1492, with the backing of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and his expedition made landfall on one of the Bahamian islands in the middle of October, the same year. Christopher Columbus, himself, described the event in his own words to Luis de St. Angel—treasurer of Aragon—in a letter written by the explorer during his journey home in 1493. Columbus stated:
“As I know you will be rejoiced at the glorious success that our Lord has given me in my voyage, I write this to tell you how in thirty-three days I sailed to the Indies with the fleet that the illustrious King and Queen, our sovereigns, gave me, where I discovered a great many islands, inhabited by numberless people; and of all I have taken possession for their Highnesses by proclamation and display of the Royal Standard without opposition” (Letter to Luis de St. Angel, 1493).
It is the moment when Christopher Columbus and his crew first stepped foot in the mysterious new land that is depicted in the artwork. Columbus can be seen kneeling and planting the royal standard, while many of the other nearby sailors simply seem relieved to be back on dry and sturdy land. The explorers, however, are not alone. Off to the left side of the artwork, several natives of the island can be seen, watching the foreigners with interest and confusion.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- Letter of Columbus to Luis de St. Angel in American Historical Documents edited by Charles W. Eliot in the Harvard Classics series. New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909, 1937.