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

Copied Constantino Brumidi, Study for the Apotheosis of Washington in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol Building, ca. 1859-1862, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum, 2012.15
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Artwork Details

Title
Study for the Apotheosis of Washington in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol Building
Date
ca. 1859-1862
Location
Not on view
Dimensions
35 14 in. (89.5 cm) diam.
Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the American Art Forum
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
Classifications
Keywords
  • Allegory — arts and sciences — agriculture
  • Allegory — arts and sciences — science
  • Allegory — civic — liberty
  • Study — mural study
  • Allegory — other — triumph
  • Portrait male — Washington, George
Object Number
2012.15

Artwork Description

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.

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