The Capitol Dome

2018 Dome 55.1

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31 THE CAPITOL DOME PAINTING HISTORY IN THE UNITED STATES CAPITOL ROTUNDA by Anna O. Marley, Ph.D. O n 9 May 1852, the Officers of the Art Union of Philadelphia drafted a petition to the U.S. Senate's Committee on the Library to ask that one of their own receive the honor of a commission for a history painting to be installed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda (fig.1a). The Art Union of Philadelphia, dedicated to the advance of the Arts of Design in the United States, and duly incorporated by the Legisla- ture of Pennsylvania, begs leave respectfully to represent, that as a proposition has been enter- tained by your Honorable bodies, to employ the services of eminent American Artists to paint national pictures to fill the vacant panels of the Rotunda of the Capitol at Washington, it would be extremely gratifying to the friends of Art in this state if the services of Mr. P.F. Rothermel should be engaged for one of the series. His eminent talent as an historical painter; the renown which he has acquired by many of his productions, . . . lead us to the confident hope that should he be selected for this honorable duty, he would achieve a work creditable to himself and the Arts in our country, and prove a proud memorial of one of the most talented Artists of his native state. 1 A few days before, on 28 April, the Artists of the City of Philadelphia wrote a similar petition (fig. 1b): The undersigned, . . . having learned that your honorable bodies are now (by your committees) considering the expediency of purchasing, or giving commissions for pictures to adorn the public buildings under your control at Wash- ington, do therefore respectfully present this memorial asking attention to the merits of our fellow townsman Peter F. Rothermel, as an artist really deserving of the high rank he holds as a historical painter, and believing that any commission your honorable bodies might be pleased to confide to him, would be completed in a manner calculated to reflect credit on the arts of the country, and on this, his native state. 2 Fig. 1a. The petitions from Philadelphia are part of the Senate records from the 32nd Congress (see also fig. 1b). SEE NOTES FOR IMAGE CREDITS.

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