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“The Aegean Sea” by Frederic Edwin Church

"The Aegean Sea" by Frederic Edwin Church

“The Aegean Sea” by Frederic Edwin Church

“The Aegean Sea” by Frederic Edwin Church is a capriccio, which means an architectural fantasy. In this painting, the artist places together buildings, archaeological ruins, and other structural elements in fictional combinations.

This artwork was inspired by Church’s travels to Europe and the Middle East from 1867 to 1869. The composite image includes elements from sketches that Church made in different locations.

Included in the “The Aegean Sea” are:

  • the rock-cut entrance from Petra in a cliff to the left
  • fallen capitals from the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek in the lower left
  • Roman columns from Syria to the right
  • and in the distance lie classical ruins that resemble the Acropolis of Athens or the Temple of Apollo in Ancient Corinth, and
  • the dome and minaret of a mosque from Istanbul.

In this work, Church moved away from his usual naturalistic style to a more idealized style. The atmospheric effects that may be inspired by the paintings of J. M. W. Turner, which Church had seen in London.

The work may also take inspiration from Turner’s 1826 view of the Roman Forum. Church designed a gilded frame for the painting, decorated with an eclectic mixture of Middle Eastern motifs, including stars and rosettes, egg-and-dart, and other moldings.

Capriccio Art

In painting, a capriccio means an architectural fantasy, placing together buildings, archaeological ruins, and other architectural elements in fictional combinations, and may include figures.

The term is also used for landscape paintings with an aspect of fantasy. The pictures can be anything to re-imagining a building in the future as ruins or placing a structure in a completely different setting than which it exists in reality.

Frederic Edwin Church

Frederic Edwin Church (1826 – 1900) was an American landscape painter who was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters.

He is best known for painting vast landscapes, often depicting mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets. Church’s paintings emphasized realistic detail, dramatic light, and panoramic views. During his time, he was one of the most famous painters in the United States.

The Aegean Sea

  • Title:                   The Aegean Sea
  • Artist:                  Frederic Edwin Church
  • Year:                  1877
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:       Height: 137.2 cm (54 ″); Width: 160.7 cm (63.2 ″)
  • Museum:           Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Frederic Edwin Church

  • Artist:                        Frederic Edwin Church
  • Born:                        1826 – Hartford, Connecticut, United States
  • Died:                        April 7, 1900 (aged 73) – New York City, New York, United States
  • Nationality:              American
  • Movement:              Hudson River School
  • Notable Works:

Frederic Church

Explore Parthenon Art

MET European Paintings Collection

Frederic Church

MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection

MET American Wing Collection


“Earth proudly wears the Parthenon
As the best gem upon her zone.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Photo Credit: 1)Frederic Edwin Church [Public domain]

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