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The Apotheosis of Washington

Started by Recusant, July 05, 2020, 04:46:14 AM

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I got interested in this piece of public art. A fresco inside the very top of the dome of the US Capitol building, it presides over the physical manifestation of democracy in the United States. The Apotheosis of Washington is a heavily allegorical work, painted by Constantino Brumidi in what I'd consider standard 19th century religious realism style. It depicts George Washington ascending to the heavens; the literal meaning of apotheosis is "to deify."

Though anybody standing in the rotunda of the Capitol can see it, they have to look straight up, and even then they won't see all of the painting.

President Washington is seen holding a sword, floating into the painted bright yellow sky, flanked by Liberty and Victory. They're accompanied in the clouds by thirteen floating women. Below this inner circle is a series of tableaus depicting various fields of endeavour that are supposed to characterize the activity of the country. Greco-Roman gods figure heavily in these tableaus. However, I was unable to find any Christian symbolism in the piece.

I haven't gone to look for Christians objecting to the overt ceremonial paganism of the fresco, but I'd be surprised if it's been completely overlooked by them.

I appreciate this painting for its stilted weirdness, and its exalted yet somewhat obscure placement.

"The Apotheosis of Washington" | Wikipedia

Detail showing George Washington and his babes.

"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken