The Apotheosis of Washington

  The Central Group

Constantino Brumidi painted The Apotheosis of Washington on the ceiling of the Rotunda, the center of the Capitol, in 1865. He used a fresco technique in which water-based paints are applied to freshly spread plaster. The project cost the United States government $40,000, equal to more than US$556,000 today.

The center of the painting shows George Washington rising into the heavens in glory. Female figures representing Liberty and Victory/Fame are at his sides. Thirteen maidens, symbolizing the thirteen original states, circle the three central figures.

Six scenes surround the perimeter of The Apotheosis of Washington:


War: Sword raised and cape flying, Armored Freedom tramples Tyranny and Kingly Power with the assistance of an eagle carrying arrows and a thunderbolt.


Science: Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts of civilization, points to an electric generator creating power stored in batteries beside a printing press. Watching her are inventors Benjamin Franklin; Robert Fulton, the inventor of the first commercially successful steamboat; and Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of lighting wires and Morse code.


Marine: Holding his trident, Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, looks on as Venus, the Roman goddess of love who was born from the sea, helps lay the transatlantic cable. An iron-clad ship with smokestacks can be seen in the background.


Commerce: Mercury, Roman god of commerce, in his winged cap and sandals hands a bag of gold to Robert Morris, financier of the Revolutionary War. Brumidi signed and dated the canopy on the box below Mercury.


Mechanics: Vulcan—Roman god of fire, blacksmiths, and craftsmanship—stands at his anvil, near a cannon and pile of cannon balls. A steam engine is visible in the background.


Agriculture: Ceres, Roman goddess of agriculture, is depicted with a wreath of wheat and a cornucopia, seated on a McCormick reaper. Young America in a liberty cap holds the reins of the Horses, while Flora gathers flowers in the foreground.

About the Artist

Constantino Brumidi (1805–1880) was born and raised in Rome, Italy. Before moving to the United States in 1852, Brumidi painted in the Vatican—home of the governing body of the Catholic Church—and Roman palaces. After arriving in America, Brumidi became the artist of the Capitol. He painted frescoes and murals throughout the Capitol from 1855 until his death. In addition to The Apotheosis of Washington, Brumidi painted the meeting room of the House Committee on Agriculture and is known for his work in the Senate hallways, referred to as the Brumidi Corridors.