The Capitol Dome

The Capitol Dome 56.1

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2 THE CAPITOL DOME PomPeii on the Potomac: Constantino Brumidi's Nineteenth-Century, Roman-Style Murals for the Naval Affairs Committee Room in the United States Capitol by elise a. Friedland INTRODUCTION Constantino Brumidi, the Italian-born painter turned U.S. citizen, is perhaps best known for his Apotheosis of George Washington in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. This famous fresco, how- ever, was one of the artist's later works. Brumidi's artistic impact on the interior d├ęcor of the Capitol appears earlier in the Senate extension wing, where "The Art- ist of the Capitol" designed and painted his second full-scale mural cycle for the walls and ceiling of the original Naval Affairs Committee Room (now the Sen- ate Appropriations Committee Room, S-127; fig. 1). Executed between the fall of 1856 and the spring of 1858, the murals of S-127 are quite different from those of any other room dec- orated by Brumidi in terms of both their coherent classical style and nar- rative. Stylistically, the images echo first-century Roman wall painting, and it is well-known that one of Brumidi's nine maidens, the figure holding a flag on the wall panel just inside the entrance from the adjacent room (S-128), was modeled directly on a floating Maenad from the House of the Ship (Casa del Naviglio) at Pompeii (figs. 2 and 3). 1 However, because no thorough iconographic study of the room has been undertaken until now, the extent of Brumidi's direct borrow- ing from Pompeian and other Roman wall painting has been unknown. It was not certain whether he adopted and adapted multiple, specific ancient models throughout the room or merely created subjects "in the Pompeian style." How Fig. 1 . View of S-127, looking northeast, U.S. Capitol

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