Well, not really; although at a glance that’s what came to mind.
Above these columns and opening is the small rotunda in the old Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol, designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe as an ornamental air shaft. It was constructed after the fire of 1814 as a means of lighting the corridors and circulating air into rooms that open onto the space. https://www.aoc.gov/capitol-buildings/small-senate-rotunda
In the pre-fire period this elliptical space housed the Senate wing’s main staircase. Benjamin Henry Latrobe remarked to Thomas Jefferson that “it was one of the most remarkable parts of the Capitol.”
The chandelier hanging in this rotunda since 1965 was purchased for $1,500 from the ABC Wrecking Co., which had removed it from the Capitol Hill United Methodist Church on Seward Square in southeast Washington, D.C., before razing that building. Wow, I can you imagine buying it today?
Imported from Europe in 1903, it previously hung in an historic Baltimore theater and a Capitol Hill church. Originally smaller, it has been enlarged and modified over its history. The chandelier reportedly has 14,500 crystals and weighs nearly 2,000 pounds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It seems that most nation and state capitols have a dome, or rotunda. Each has a story to tell, with its own unique history.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
“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.