Prometheus Bound

Thomas Cole1847

de Young Museum

de Young Museum

In classical mythology, Prometheus was an immortal giant who aided the human race by stealing fire from the gods. As punishment he was chained to Mount Caucasus in Scythia and condemned to have his liver plucked out by a vulture each day, only to have it renewed and then devoured again the next.

Thomas Cole is best known as a landscape painter, and here the figure of Prometheus—the ostensible main subject of the painting—is secondary to the vast mountain range that surrounds him. Research suggests that Cole, an abolitionist, may have chosen this subject to create a moral allegory of the evils of slavery, symbolized most potently by the shackles that bind Prometheus to the rock.

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  • Title: Prometheus Bound
  • Date Created: 1847
  • Location: United States
  • painter: Thomas Cole
  • credit line source: Museum
  • credit line: Museum purchase, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Steven MacGregor Read and Joyce I. Swader Bequest Fund
  • Physical Dimensions: w2438.4 x h1625.6 in
  • Type: Painting


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