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The Apotheosis of Washington in the eye of the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol was painted in the true fresco technique by Constantino Brumidi in 1865.
Brumidi (1805-1880) was born and trained in Rome and had painted in the Vatican and Roman palaces before emigrating to the United States in 1852. A master of creating the illusion of three-dimensional forms and figures on flat walls, Brumidi painted frescoes and murals throughout the Capitol from 1855 until his death.
The canopy fresco, his most ambitious work at the Capitol, was painted in eleven months at the end of the Civil War, soon after the new dome was completed, for $40,000. Suspended 180 feet above the Rotunda floor, it covers an area of 4,664 square feet.
The figures, up to 15 feet tall, were painted to be intelligible from close up as well as from 180 feet below. Some of the groups and figures were inspired by classical and Renaissance images, especially by those of the Italian master Raphael.
Deification, the exaltation of men to the rank of gods. Closely connected with the universal worship of the dead in the history of all primitive peoples was the consecration as deities of heroes or rulers, as a reward for bravery or other great services.
Catholic Encyclopedia (informative read)
Brumidi depicted George Washington 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. (The word "apotheosis" in the title means literally the raising of a person to the rank of a god, or the glorification of a person as an ideal; George Washington was honored as a national icon in the nineteenth century.
Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, is shown with a wreath of wheat and a cornucopia, seated on a McCormick reaper. Young America in a liberty cap holds the reins of the horses, while Flora gathers flowers in the foreground.
Mercury, god of commerce, with his winged cap and sandals and caduceus, hands a bag of gold to Robert Morris, financier of the Revolutionary War. On the left, men move a box on a dolly; on the right, the anchor and sailors lead into the next scene, "Marine."
Neptune, god of the sea, holding his trident and crowned with seaweed, rides in a shell chariot drawn by sea horses. Venus, goddess of love born from the sea, helps lay the transatlantic cable. In the background is a form of iron-clad ship with smokestacks.
Vulcan, god of the forge, stands at his anvil with his foot on a cannon, near a pile of cannon balls and with a steam engine in the background. The man at the forge is thought to represent Charles Thomas, who was in charge of the ironwork of the Capitol dome.
Minerva, goddess of wisdom and the arts of civilization, with helmet and spear, points to an electric generator creating power stored in batteries, next to a printing press, while inventors Benjamin Franklin, Samuel F. B. Morse, and Robert Fulton watch. At the left, a teacher demonstrates the use of dividers.
Armored Freedom, sword raised and cape flying, with a helmet and shield reminiscent of those on the Statue of Freedom, tramples Tyranny and Kingly Power; she is assisted by a fierce eagle carrying arrows and a thunderbolt.
According to the earliest legends the site was originally a sacred place of the earth goddess Gaia (also called Ge) and was guarded by her daughter, the serpent Python. Later legends state that the site was the center of the world as determined by the god Zeus. Two eagles (or ravens) had been released by Zeus from opposite ends of the earth and following great flights across the skies they finally met at Delphi.
The central mountain is the World Navel, where heaven, earth and the underworld are joined. Thus, the entrance to Hades is a Mycenaean tholos or beehive tomb, which represents the World Navel (see also XV.Tower). The phiale omphalote (navel bowl, a shallow dish with a central boss), the libation bowl used in sacrifice, is filled at the World Navel from the cornucopia (the horn of Amaltheia, the goat who nourished Zeus), which represents the ecstatic experience. (Butterworth, Tree ch. 2, esp. pp. 31-2, 116-9)
The bronze Statue of Freedom by Thomas Crawford is the crowning feature of the dome of the United States Capitol. The statue is a classical female figure of Freedom wearing flowing draperies. Her right hand rests upon the hilt of a sheathed sword; her left holds a laurel wreath of victory and the shield of the United States with thirteen stripes. Her helmet is encircled by stars and features a crest composed of an eagle's head, feathers, and talons, a reference to the costume of Native Americans. A brooch inscribed "U.S." secures her fringed robes. She stands on a cast-iron globe encircled with the national motto, E Pluribus Unum. The lower part of the base is decorated with fasces and wreaths. Ten bronze points tipped with platinum are attached to her headdress, shoulders, and shield for protection from lightning. The bronze statue stands 19 feet 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds. Her crest rises 288 feet above the east front plaza.
A monumental statue for the top of the national Capitol appeared in Architect Thomas U. Walter's original drawing for the new cast-iron dome, which was authorized in 1855. Walter's drawing showed the outline of a statue representing Liberty; Crawford proposed an allegorical figure of "Freedom triumphant in War and Peace." After Secretary of War Jefferson Davis objected to the sculptor's intention to include a liberty cap, the symbol of freed slaves, Crawford replaced it with a crested Roman helmet.
The laurel wreath as victory symbol originates in Greek mythology. It has to do with Apollo slaying a monster and starting a cycle of four annual contests (pan-hellenic athletic games cycle) that honored his accomplishment.
The white marble Peace Monument was erected in 1877-1878 to commemorate the naval deaths at sea during the Civil War. The 44-foot-high monument stands in the circle to the west of the Capitol at Pennsylvania Avenue and First Street, N.W.
At the top of the monument, facing west, stand two classically robed female figures. Grief holds her covered face against the shoulder of History and weeps in mourning. History holds a stylus and a tablet that was inscribed "They died that their country might live." Below Grief and History, another life-size classical female figure represents Victory, holding high a laurel wreath and carrying an oak branch, signifying strength. Below her are the infant Mars, the god of war, and the infant Neptune, god of the sea. The shaft of the monument is decorated with wreaths, ribbons, and scallop shells.
Facing the Capitol is Peace, a classical figure draped from the waist down and holding an olive sprig. Below her are symbols of peace and industry. A dove, now missing and not documented in any known photographs, once nested upon a sheaf of wheat in a grouping of a cornucopia, turned earth, and a sickle resting across a sword. Opposite, the symbols of science, literature, and art (including an angle, a gear, a book, and a pair of dividers) signify the progress of civilization that peace makes possible.
At the corners of the monument, four marble globes are visually supported by massive brackets. The fountain below, with a jet on each side, empties into a quatrefoil-shaped basin.
Inscribed "In memory of the officers, seamen and marines of the United States Navy who fell in defense of the Union and liberty of their country, 1861-1865," this sculptural group has also been called the Naval Monument.
Originally posted by Blaine91555
The Capitol was built to intimidate visiting Heads of State and Dignitaries. It is a symbol of our Countries power and the Power of the People.