According to the Metropolitan Museum’s web site (, “This picture was inspired by Church's second trip to South America in the spring of 1857. Church sketched prolifically throughout his nine weeks travel in Ecuador, and many extant watercolors and drawings contain elements found in this work. The picture was publicly unveiled in New York at Lyrique Hall, 756 Broadway, on April 27, 1859. Subsequently moved to the gallery of the Tenth Street Studio Building, it was lit by gas jets concealed behind silver reflectors in a darkened chamber. The work caused a sensation, and twelve to thirteen thousand people paid twenty-five cents apiece to file by it each month. The picture was also shown in London, where it was greatly admired as well.”

Church actually made more money from exhibiting his paintings in this way and from selling engravings and lithographs of them than from selling the paintings themselves.