I began imagining this scene when I learned that my painting of the Carmelites return entitled The Landing might not show the original site. Sister John at Mount Carmel graciously supplied me the results of their extensive research. Meanwhile I’ve spent a great deal of time on my own combing Charles County land records, wills, and genealogies. I cannot say I have found conclusive evidence supporting an alternative account of the first landing apart from Mother Bernardina’s letter recounting the journey from present day Belgium to Port Tobacco, which simply says they arrived safe at “Mr. Bobby Brent’s landing.” If that landing was along the eastern shore of the Potomac versus the western shore of the Port Tobacco River, then the scene could have looked like this early the next morning when the Carmelites first stepped ashore. Whatever the case, I fell in love with the scene. I selected a larger sloop with topsails for this painting and positioned it offshore of the present-day Loyola on the Potomac Jesuit Retreat House. I have visited this location many times on land and in a boat. The view from the tops of the cliffs looking west over the Potomac and Port Tobacco is truly inspiring. The area was originally patented by John Jarboe of St Mary’s County and named High Cliffs. Another painting, Where Rivers Meet shows this magnificent juncture from about a mile further north at present day Mount Air then the home of Ignatius Matthews. The Carmelites spent their first week in Maryland as Mr. Matthews’ guests. Its probably not fair to say “guests,” for with the exception of Sister Clare Joseph from London, the others we home.
Note: Available archaeological work suggests that there were few docks or wharfs as we know them along these two rivers in the eighteenth-century, so most cargo and people were routinely carried to and from shore in smaller boats often called ‘lighters.” Many were flat-bottomed, shallow-draft, and rectangular in shape made specially to carry the great hogsheads used to transport tobacco and other goods.
Oil on canvas 24x36 inches