Death of Columbus (1506)

Panel

"After Queen Isabella's death in 1504, Columbus lost his influence at the court. As he lies on his death bed, priests and friends are gathered around him, and one priests holds up a crucifix for him. Columbus died at Valladolid on May 20, 1506. The figures on either side of the panel represent King John II of Portugal and Martin Alonzo."

The death of Isabella meant the death of Columbus' dreams for wealth, power, and contemporary recognition. Although he had received a good deal of wealth under the terms of the contract of Santa Fe, he still sought recognition through the title of Viceroy of the Indies and even more wealth. Ferdinand balked at honoring the terms of the agreement, which would have made Columbus' wealth nearly as great as the crown's; Columbus would have to be content with the lesser title, the Duke of Veragua, and the hereditary rank of Admiral of the Ocean Sea.

With a great deal of tenacity, which early Americans would have appreciated, Columbus persisted in his suit for the money he felt was due him--which he hoped to use to finance a new dream: a crusade to reclaim Jerusalem.

His death went unheralded. There was no public ceremony of mourning. Not until twenty-seven days later did the official registry of births and deaths in Valladolid make a brief reference to the effect that 'the said Admiral is dead.'...The funeral procession attracted little attention. The body of Columbus was carried through the narrow streets of Valladolid to a Franciscan monastery near the center of the city. He was laid to rest in a crypt beneath the abbey. (240-41)

The panel, as with nearly all representations of Columbus, presents only one side of the story, the ideal in which Americans sought to find themselves.


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