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Study for the Apotheosis of Washington in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol Building

ca. 1859-1862 Constantino Brumidi Born: Rome, Italy 1805 Died: Washington, District of Columbia 1880 oil on canvas 35 1/4 in. (89.5 cm) diam. Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum 2012.15 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing

Gallery Label

Brumidi was commissioned to paint the ceiling decoration in the rotunda of the United States Capitol, and presented this study to gain approval to begin the monumental work. He chose to paint George Washington in the center of the dome, having ascended to the heavens, looking down upon the visitor. Steeped in classical mythology, Brumidi presents George Washington as Zeus, chief among the Greek gods, flanked by thirteen female figures representing the original thirteen colonies. Six vignettes form the outer edge of the decoration, with allegories pairing Greek gods and goddesses with an aspect of American prowess and ingenuity. Brumidi incorporated current events into his vignettes: at the bottom of this painting, Athena--portrayed as goddess of war--vanquishes the forces of evil, here portrayed by Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and his vice president, Alexander H. Stephens. The completion of the dome in 1865 came to symbolize a newly reunited America after the Civil War.


Allegory - arts and sciences - agriculture

Allegory - arts and sciences - science

Allegory - civic - liberty

Allegory - civic - war

Allegory - other - triumph

Allegory - quality - grandeur

Portrait male - Washington, George

Study - mural study


About Constantino Brumidi

Born: Rome, Italy 1805 Died: Washington, District of Columbia 1880

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Constantino Brumidi