American Pantheon: Sculptural and Artistic Decoration

Overview

Like the ancient Roman Pantheon, the U.S. Capitol was designed by its political and aesthetic arbiters to memorialize the virtues, events, and persons most representative of the nation's ideals—an attempt to raise a particular version of the nation's founding to the level of myth.

American Pantheon examines the influences upon not only those virtues and persons selected for inclusion in the American pantheon, but also those excluded. Two chapters address the exclusion of slavery...

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Overview

Like the ancient Roman Pantheon, the U.S. Capitol was designed by its political and aesthetic arbiters to memorialize the virtues, events, and persons most representative of the nation's ideals—an attempt to raise a particular version of the nation's founding to the level of myth.

American Pantheon examines the influences upon not only those virtues and persons selected for inclusion in the American pantheon, but also those excluded. Two chapters address the exclusion of slavery and African Americans from the art in the Capitol, a silence made all the more deafening by the major contributions of slaves and free black workers to the construction of the building. Two other authors consider the subject of women emerging as artists, subjects, patrons, and proponents of art in the Capitol, a development that began to emerge only in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The Rotunda, the Capitol's principal ceremonial space, was designed in part as an art museum of American history—at least the authorized version of it. It is explored in several of the essays, including discussions of the influence of the early-nineteenth-century Italian sculptors who provided the first sculptural reliefs for the room and the contributions of the mid-nineteenth-century Italian American artist Constantino Brumidi, to the mix of allegory, mythology, and history that permeates the space and indeed the Capitol itself.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Donald R. Kennon is chief historian of the United States Capitol Historical Society. He is coeditor of the Ohio University Press series Perspectives on the History of Congress, 1789–1801 and editor of the series Perspectives on the Art and Architectural History of the United States Capitol.

Thomas P. Somma was the director of the Mary Washington University Galleries at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He is the author of The Apotheosis of Democracy, 1908–1916: The Pediment for the House Wing of the United States Capitol.

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Table of Contents

Pantheon on the Potomac : the architectural evolution of the Capitol Rotunda 1
The Italian influence on American political iconography : the United States capitol as lure and disseminator 23
A new world pantheon : Italian sculptural contributions in the Capitol Rotunda 59
Virtue and virtual reality in John Trumbull's "Pantheon" 72
"Lost in America" : David d'Angers's bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson, 1832-1833 90
The problem with public art : Henry Kirke Brown's Thinking Negro (1855) from his pedimental design for the United States Capitol 111
Photographing the interior sky : a photographer's view of state capitols 138
Masking slavery in and on the United States Capitol Rotunda 143
Vinnie Ream's Lincoln (1871) : the sexual politics of a sculptor's studio 160
Mythology, allegory, and history : Brumidi's frescoes for the new dome 176
Constantino Brumidi as decorator and history painter : an iconographic analysis of two rooms in the United States Capitol 204
Gender and public space : women and art in the United States Capitol, 1860-2001 220
The United States Capitol Rotunda and the decoration of the state capitols, 1870-1930 254
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