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Print A: The Castle of San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz, Mexico / Thomas Moran


“Vera Cruz is a most interesting and picturesque town. . . . The city with its numerous churches, from the ship looked much like Venice.”1 —Thomas Moran in a letter to Mary Nimmo Moran, 1883

Thomas Moran’s letter to his wife, the artist Mary Nimmo Moran (1842–1899), suggests that he had already visited Venice. It would in fact be three years before Moran journeyed there; thus, he only knew Venice through the work of other artists, such as J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851). In 1862, Moran traveled to Great Britain to see Turner’s work firsthand. While in London, Moran could have seen Turner’s oil painting Bridge of Sighs, Ducal Palace and Custom House, Venice: Canaletti Painting (1833) in the National Gallery. Moreover, Moran also had access to Turner’s original sketchbooks and watercolors depicting Venice.2 Art historian Nancy K. Anderson suggests that Turner’s depictions of Venice informed Moran’s view of the Mexican coastal city of Veracruz.3

Veracruz was Mexico’s principal seaport, and the centuries-old fortress of San Juan de Ulúa enchanted Moran, the artist envisioning the setting as the Venice of the Americas. Construction of the Spanish colonial fort began in 1523 on an island reef just off the coast from the port city.4 Moran created several field sketches of the area, drawings that he later worked up into this etching and the 1885 oil painting Venetian Seaport, Veracruz (01.1109).5 After Moran visited Venice in 1886, he created a pendant painting of a sort, Venice: Reminiscence of Veracruz, Mexico (01.2447).

—Sandra Pauly, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Moran Collection Research, 2021

1 Bassford and Fryxell, Home thoughts, from afar, 63.
2 Townsend, “‘A Lasting Impression,’” 29.
3 Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 121–24.
4 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 234. Declared a National Historic Monument in 1962, San Juan de Ulúa was placed on the World Monuments Watch list in 1996. Today the renovated fortress serves as a museum, art gallery, and restoration school. See “San Juan de Ulúa Fort” on the World Monuments Fund website for further information and images.
5 Sketches of Veracruz in the Gilcrease collection include Veracruz (02.815), San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz (02.826), San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz (13.669), and Veracruz, Mexico (13.807).

Curatorial Remarks

Etching, early state with graphite shading in the sails, graphite hatching on the horizon line, and a moon added in the sky. SPauly 3.14.22

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Print A: The Castle of San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz, Mexico; The Castle of San Juan D'Ulloa, Vera Cruz, Mexico
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Hudson River School
printing ink and graphite on paper
Portrait; single-sided 0.446- 0.463 mm Cream, wove, heavyweight, dandy roll paper. Woven texture surface; faint laid lines visible in transmitted light
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
1426.436a; 18836
Not On View

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