Topping the Dome: Art and Politics During the Construction of the Capitol Dome

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A major Capitol Dome restoration was long overdue. After two years of construction, current Architect of the Capitol , Stephen T. The project was the culmination of years of dedicated planning and rehabilitation by engineers, conservators, painters, and architects. It was also a fire hazard.

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Between and , the government reconstructed a new Dome, three times the height of the original, using nearly 4, tons of cast iron. Philadelphia architect Thomas U. Walter the fourth Architect of the Capitol led the design, and principal superintendent of construction and captain in the Army Corps of Engineers Montgomery C. In the early years, Walter and Meigs steered the U. Capitol Dome construction through their own infighting and design changes, including the creation of the double dome for better support. The Dome saw its last comprehensive restoration in , which included welding together the broken and cracked cast-iron plates that had weakened the structure.

It was painted by a Roman-born artist Constantino Brumidi in eighteen sixty-five, at the end of the Civil War. At the top of the dome is a colorful painting showing groups of people arranged in a circular shape. George Washington sits in the center of the painting, with women representing Liberty and Victory at his sides. Apotheosis means being raised to the level of an ideal or a god. It might seem strange today to show an American president as a god. But during the nineteenth century, Americans greatly loved and respected President Washington.

Several Roman gods are also in the painting. They are holding examples of American technologies of the time. Like Ceres there is sitting on a McCormick reaper, which is the new way for reaping grain quickly. And Neptune with a Trident is helping lay the trans-Atlantic cable which was just being laid when he was painting this. The artist Constantino Brumidi finished this huge work in only eleven months. A frieze is a long stretch of surface that has been painted or sculpted. This one tells the history of America.

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The people in the frieze are painted to look three- dimensional, like sculptures. Below the frieze, eight huge historical paintings hang on the curved walls. Four paintings tell about the events of the Revolutionary War in the late eighteenth century. The four others show examples of early explorations of the country. These include the landing of explorer Christopher Columbus and the discovery of the Mississippi River.

One marble sculpture of Abraham Lincoln was created in eighteen seventy-one, after his death. Vinnie Ream made the sculpture. She was the first woman hired by the government to create a work of art. She was only eighteen years old when she was asked to make the statue.

Stately race against time to restore Capitol dome before inauguration | US news | The Guardian

Another marble statue nearby honors three women who fought for voting rights for women. Adelaide Johnson made this sculpture. This is also by a woman artist.

Anthony and Lucretia Mott seem to be coming up out of the huge piece of stone. Behind them, a fourth form rises out of the uncut stone. The statue at the top of dome is the Statue of Freedom. The Rotunda stands feet, three inches tall and is 96 feet in diameter. Paintings and sculptures depicting significant people and events in US history are on display. This room is where presidents and distinguished citizens lie in state.

Politics Not the Only Art in the US Capitol

The hall holds of the Capitol's collection of statues of notable citizens in US history, two per state. The Brumidi Corridors are named after the artist, Constantino Brumidi, who designed the murals along the walls. Visitor areas on the ground floor include the Hall of Columns, the Brumidi Corridors, the Old Supreme Court Chamber and the Crypt historical exhibits are presented here. The Senate chambers are in the north wing and chambers for the House of Representatives and the offices of Congressional leaders are in the south wing.

The third floor has visitors' areas where they may watch proceedings. Only the north wing is complete.


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Walter as the main architect to build extensions onto to the Capitol. Four Puerto Rican nationalists: