This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
The Landing of Columbus is the work of John Vanderlyn. It is unnatural, feeble in execution and lacking in general impressiveness. It purports to represent the landing of the Spaniards on San Salvador in 1492. The great Genoese admiral, commanding under the flag of Ferdinand and Isabella the Santa Maria, Nina and Pinta, takes possession of that island-child of the American continents in the fond delusion that he has discovered a new way to the East Indies.
It is hard to believe that this picture is from the brush of the pupil of Stuart and Robertson whom Burr honored as his protege and thought the greatest American painter. Indeed, Bishop Kip says : " In 1844, I was in Paris, and inquiring about the picture, found that it was advancing under the hand of a clever French artist whom Vanderlyn had employed. Of course, the conception and design were his own, but I believe little of the actual work. In fact no one familiar with Vanderlyn's early style could ever imagine the ' Columbus' to be his. Place it by the side of the ' Marius,' and you see that they are evidently executed by different artists. The ' Marius ' has the dark, severe tone of the old masters; the ' Landing of Columbus' is a flashy modern French painting".
The painting of Marius referred to so attracted the attention of Napoleon the Great that, after viewing the other pictures in the exhibition, he returned to it and in his rapid manner of speech said: " Give the medal to that." It is remembered that the emperor wished even to purchase it for permanent hanging in the Louvre, but that Vanderlyn patriotically declined, preferring to bring his best work to America.