Apotheosis Artist

How do they do that? I wonder as I look at the fantastic, artistic work like we see in the U.S. Capitol’s Rotunda. 

Constantino Brumidi (1805–1880) is best known for the murals he painted in the United States Capitol over a 25-year period, including the “Apotheosis of Washington,” the “Frieze of American History” and the walls of the Brumidi Corridors.  (https://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/artists/constantino-brumidi)

Brumidi’s artistic vision was based on the wall paintings of ancient Rome and Pompeii, and on classical revivals that occurred in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and in the early 19th-century.

Frieze of American history by Brumidi. (photo courtesy of Architects of the Capitol)

Brumidi was born in Rome before Italy was a nation. Beginning at age 13, he studied for 14 years at the Academy of St. Luke and was trained in the full range of painting mediums, including true fresco, and possibly in sculpture. He achieved a mastery of the human figure and learned how to create the appearance of three-dimensional forms on flat surfaces, an effect called trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”).

At the Roman villa of the wealthy Torlonia family, he was in charge of decorating the new theater with murals including trompe l’oeil architectural forms and classical motifs that he later adapted for the Capitol.

Brumidi also worked extensively for the Vatican, restoring frescoes for Pope Gregory XVI and painting the official portrait of Pope Pius IX. His last murals in Rome were in a small church dedicated in 1851.

Brumidi helped support his family with the coffee shop inherited from his father. He also served as captain in the civic guard authorized by Pius IX, but when the pope fled the city, and a republic was declared in 1849, Brumidi was caught up in the revolution when he removed valuable objects from church buildings for safekeeping.

After the pope returned to power, Brumidi was among many arrested and accused of serious crimes. Despite numerous testimonies in his favor, and after 13 months of incarceration, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The pope pardoned him with the understanding that he would be leaving for America, where he was promised work in planned churches.

Arriving in New York in September 1852, Brumidi immediately applied for citizenship, which he was granted in 1857. He undertook private portrait and domestic commissions as well as painting altar pieces and murals in numerous churches.

Frieze at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.

Beginning in 1855, Brumidi decorated walls and ceilings in the U.S. Capitol Building.  He worked with teams of artists to carry out his designs, executing all of the true frescoes himself. His murals combine classical and allegorical subjects with portraits and scenes from American history and tributes to American values and inventions.

Brumidi’s major contributions are the monumental canopy and frieze of the new Capitol Dome, and the Capitol Apotheosis in 1865.  He began painting the frieze depicting major events in American history in 1878 but died on February 19, 1880, with the work less than half finished.

Brumidi’s frieze image depicting Christopher Columbus landing in North America (photo courtesy of Architects of the Capitol)

Filippo Costaggini carried out Brumidi’s remaining designs between 1881 and 1889.  The entire frieze was not completed until 1953, when Allyn Cox added the last three scenes.

The sequence of 19 scenes begins over the west door and moves clockwise around the Rotunda. See https://www.aoc.gov/art/other-paintings-and-murals/frieze-american-history for details of the scenes.

Brumidi’s frieze image depicting North American aviation (photo courtesy of Architects of the Capitol)

Brumidi’s immigration to the U.S. and his citizenship is an example of the influence of those coming to the United States to provide significant and lasting value, how people from around the world helped build a nation to champion world freedom and prosperity. Notice it took Brumidi from 1852 to 1857 to obtain his U.S. citizenship.  He became a citizen the right way, even though it took about five years. 

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Where is your Rotunda?

U.S. Capitol Rotunda dome in Washington, D.C.

It seems that most nation and state capitols have a dome, or rotunda.  Each has a story to tell, with its own unique history. 

U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, D.C.

Although I’ve seen firsthand the U.S. Capitol Rotunda a few times during my visits there, I didn’t have the particular desire at the time to learn more of its history – only to absorb its uniqueness and beauty. 

Why not?  Maybe, as I mature, I realize the significance of what has transpired to where we are today.  I realize there are myriads of untold stories and facts that await discovery.

The U.S. Capitol Rotunda is a large, domed, circular room in the center of the United States Capitol on the second floor. It is used for important ceremonial events such as the lying in state of eminent citizens and the dedication of works of art.

Center of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.

The Rotunda canopy features the painting entitled The Apotheosis of Washington, and the walls hold historic paintings along with a frescoed band, or “frieze,” depicting significant events in American history.

The Apotheosis was painted in 11 months at the end of the Civil War, soon after the new dome was completed, for $40,000. The figures, up to 15 feet tall, were painted to be intelligible from close up as well as from 180 feet below. (Note: The word “apotheosis” means literally the raising of a person to the rank of a god, or the glorification of a person as an ideal, as George Washington was honored as a national icon in the nineteenth century). 

My personal opinion about this attempt to show George Washington in this elevated state would have upset this humble, respected leader.  He didn’t even want to continue being president, and certainly didn’t want to be considered king – hence why he returned to his home and family to allow others to be selected by the people to lead the nation. 

Some of the groups and figures in the Rotunda were inspired by classical and renaissance images. 

George Washington is depicted in the center of the fresco rising to the heavens in glory, flanked by female figures representing liberty and victory/fame.  A rainbow arches at his feet, and thirteen maidens symbolizing the original states flank the three central figures. Six groups of figures line the perimeter of the canopy. 

Just below the apotheosis and windows of the dome is the frieze, containing a painted panorama of significant events in American history.

I’ll provide some of the artist’s background and a few more details in my next post. I thought it was interesting.

Blessings along the way!

Ron

Did you miss the national parks?

National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Timing is everything. 

I’m glad we were able to visit some national parks in Washington, D.C. recently before the temporary U.S. Government shutdown.  Otherwise, our latest trip would resemble one a few years ago when we visited during the previous shutdown.

It was disappointing during  the shutdown a few years ago – for us and those from around the world – and equally disappointing during the latest shutdown when the public could not visit the parks under the federal government’s control. 

Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C.

I thought of those who looked forward to visiting the various national parks, including the pillars of democracy in D.C.  I’m sure they were disappointed again.  I thought about the employees and their families and the struggles they endured.    

Night image of the fountain at the World War II Memorial – no visitors, cold and dreary, reflecting the impact of the shutdown.

I’m glad these parks will open again this week as employees can work without having to wait for their pay.  As I looked at some of these photos they reminded me of the dark times of government when even the parks designed for enjoyment and learning were minimized, when they should be shining bright for freedom.

Washington Monument and part of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

I’m thankful for local, national and international guests to be able to visit and learn about the United States of America, its uniqueness, its foundation and the desire to help those seeking freedom during the ages. 

May we always be open while protecting those within and without.

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Doors of democracy

House Bronze Doors

The bronze doors at the east portico entrance of the U.S. Capitol’s House wing were designed by the American sculptor Thomas Crawford in Rome in 1855–1857.  

The models were shipped from Leghorn, Italy, in 1867 but remained stored in the Crypt of the Capitol until 1903, when they were cast by Melzar H. Mosman of Chicopee, Massachusetts. The doors were installed in 1905.

Each valve consists of three panels and a medallion depicting significant events in American history. More details are at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uscapitol/6512593605/in/album-72157628429510117/

Senate Bronze Doors   

These bronze doors were created for the east portico of the new Senate wing during the mid-nineteenth-century expansion of the Capitol. They were designed and modeled by the American sculptor Thomas Crawford in Rome in 1855–1857.

After Crawford’s death in 1857, William H. Rinehart was commissioned to complete the work and the models were shipped to America in 1864. They were cast by James T. Ames at his foundry in Chicopee, Massachusetts, in 1864–1868, and placed late in 1868.

Each valve consists of three panels, depicting events in the life of George Washington and Revolutionary War scenes, and an allegorical medallion. More details are at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uscapitol/6512520301/in/album-72157628429510117/

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Continue the Dream

Statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

History is full of simple to resplendent dreams for those who dare.  I’m confident each of us has dreams and aspirations of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. 

Many dreams die in the night, not able to be nurtured toward fruition.  Life is like that.

Some dreams culminate in our personal lives while some benefit humankind. 

Where many dreams have died, there are those who awoke amidst the turmoil and strife, arousing the dream of tomorrow in each beautiful life.

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Lincoln Memorial reminded be of one who stepped beyond defeat and the weight that suppressed, to rebuild a nation under God that recognizes the rights of each – recognizing that each person is created in the image of God with equal rights under His law. 

Abraham Lincoln saw equality in each human being and kept the dream toward a new beginning for those who struggled for life itself. 

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Robert Musso Moton shared these words at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial “With malice toward none, with charity for all we dedicate ourselves and our posterity, with you and yours, to finish the work which he so nobly began, to make America an example for all the world of equal justice and equal opportunity for all.” Robert Russo Moton, Address at the Lincoln Memorial dedication, May 30, 1922

A National Stage for Civil Rights

The Lincoln Memorial was built in 1922 to heal national divisions caused by the Civil War.  Yet for many, Lincoln’s promise of freedom remained incomplete.  Over the next half century, the looming figure of Abraham Lincoln witnessed a number of events and demonstrations that reinforced the memorial’s importance as a symbolic space for civil rights movements.  http://americanhistory.si.edu/changing-america-emancipation-proclamation-1863-and-march-washington-1963/1963/lincoln-memorial

Another leader of freedom Martin Luther King Jr, arose with a dream for all to be free in a nation that was founded on freedom for all.  This dream permeates the world where even today there are those in every nation who cannot yet enjoy the pleasures of a free life. 

Martin Luther King Jr, believed in the ideals of a nation were every child, teen and adult can enjoy God’s wonderful world without fear, intimidation or prejudice – being free to enjoy every aspect of life.

The Lincoln Memorial is a landmark where he shared his dream to the world – “I have a Dream” speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. 

Excerpts:

“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'” (personal addition – women too)

“When we allow freedom to ring – when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.'”

See the similarities between Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.?  They lived short lives but made a profound impact to the world.

Excerpt of Abraham Lincoln from the education center at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.” Abraham Lincoln  (https://www.keepinspiring.me/abraham-lincoln-quotes) (personal note – women included)

Let’s continued the dream!

Blessings and love along the way,

Ron

Capitol Crypt


The white stone compass star in the center marks where the city’s four quadrants meet. 

Yes, you read this correctly.  There is a place in the U.S. Capitol called the Crypt. 

For a long time the term has referenced the space below the main floor of a church or a chamber in a mausoleum.  We often think of a crypt as a place for burial, right?

Why the capitol then?  It is something different. The Crypt contains 40 smooth Doric columns of sandstone, which support the arches holding up the floor of the Rotunda,  the large, domed, circular room located in the center of the Capitol on the second floor. 

The columns are modeled on the Temple of Poseidon, which were the shortest and the strongest columns that survive from classical Greece.

The sandstone floor hosts hundreds of people visiting every day from around the world.  The white stone compass star in the center marks where the city’s four quadrants meet. 

Sandstone used in the U.S. Capitol

Around the perimeter are statues of prominent individuals from the nation’s original 13 colonies.  Display cases present exhibits and historic objects.

The Crypt was associated with a proposed interment even before it was built. After the death of President George Washington in 1799, Congress resolved to honor him in the Capitol.

A chamber for the remains of the first president and his wife was added to the plans for the center section of the building and constructed two stories below the Rotunda. Directly above the tomb, where the center of the Crypt is located, was to be placed a marble statue of Washington.

A 10-foot circular opening was left in the center of the Rotunda floor so that visitors could view it from above. However, Washington’s grave remained at Mount Vernon in accordance with his wishes, and no statue of him was ever placed in the Crypt.

Because the 10-foot opening allowed persistent drafts and dampness into the Rotunda, it was sealed in 1828.  https://www.aoc.gov/blog/how-crypt-got-its-name

George Washington truly represented our nation and its values well.  He didn’t want to become a king but simply wanted to return to his civilian life after his term was over so others could be elected president. 

Maybe our political leaders should revisit the ideals of President Washington in providing selfless service for the people. 

Blessings and love along the way,

Ron

Tru life

Work stations while enjoying a stay at Tru Hotel

It’s new, at least to me.  Have you stayed at Hilton’s Tru Hotel yet.  I had my first stay during our trip to Washington, D.C.

I don’t receive any benefit by writing about Hilton properties but their brands are my preference.  We typically stay at a Hampton Inn and Suites but the Tru Hotel was readily available and the price was right.

Tru Hotel in Sumpter, South Carolina, U.S.

I was impressed.

The open-air lobby was well-lighted and inviting with modern décor and design.  The rooms were immaculate and comfortable. 

The front desk was in the center of the lobby surrounded by snacks, breakfast bar area, work spaces, seating areas and recreation.  This stay was during the Christmas season so the tree was nicely adorned with matching colors.

The Tru Hotel we stayed in was in Sumpter, South Carolina. 

I enjoyed every aspect of our stay at Tru.  Now you have more information in case you wondered.  More details and photos are available at https://tru3.hilton.com/en/our-story/index.html.

Blessings and love along the way,

Ron