Saturday, June 30, 2012

Constantino Brumidi: Artist of the Capitol

Brumidi was half Roman, so we conisder that at least an honorary Cisalpine; and in our opinion, a Padanian-American. Modern Romans are northern in character. It's surprising that there isn't much information out there on him, considering that his craftmanship is still very much featured in the U.S. capitol building. Here is a sample of that artwork. It appears--to put it bluntly--like any situation where someone was contracted to do a job, did it very well, and was forgotten about.

June 10, 2008: Rep. Ackerman manages legislation on the House floor to posthumously award Constantino Brumidi, the Artist of the Capitol, with a Congressional Gold Medal.


Constantino Brumidi (from Wikipedia)

Constantino Brumidi (July 26, 1805 – February 19, 1880) was a Greek/Italian-American historical painter, best known and honored for his fresco work in the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.


Parentage and early life

Brumidi was born in Rome, his father a Greek from Filiatra in the province of Messinia, Greece, and his mother an Italian. He showed his talent for fresco painting at an early age and painted in several Roman palaces, among them being that of Prince Torlonia. Under Gregory XVI he worked for three years in the Vatican.


Emigration and following work

The occupation of Rome by French forces in 1849 apparently persuaded Brumidi to emigrate, having joined the short-lived risorgimental Roman Republic, and he sailed for the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1852. Taking up his residence in New York City, the artist painted a number of portraits. Subsequently he undertook more important works, the principal being a fresco of the Crucifixion in St. Stephen's Church, for which he also executed a Martyrdom of St. Stephen and an Assumption of Mary. He also executed frescoes at Taylor's Chapel, Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1854 Brumidi went to Mexico, where he painted an allegorical representation of the Holy Trinity in the Mexico City cathedral. On his way back to New York he stopped at Washington D.C. and visited the Capitol. Impressed with the opportunity for decoration presented by its vast interior wall spaces, he offered his services for that purpose to Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs. This offer was accepted, and about the same time he was commissioned as a captain of cavalry.

His first art work in the Capitol Building was in the meeting room of the House Committee on Agriculture. At first he received eight dollars a day, which Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War of the United States, helped increase to ten dollars. His work attracting much favourable attention, he was given further commissions, and gradually settled into the position of a Government painter. His chief work in Washington was done in the rotunda of the Capitol and included the Apotheosis of George Washington in the dome and the Frieze of American History, which contains allegorical scenes from American history. His work in the rotunda was left unfinished at his death, but he had decorated many other sections of the building, most notably hallways in the Senate side of the Capitol now known as the Brumidi Corridors.

In the Cathedral-Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he pictured St. Peter and St. Paul. Brumidi was a capable, if conventional painter, and his black and white modeling in the work at Washington, in imitation of bas-relief, is strikingly effective. He decorated the entrance hall of Saleaudo, located at Frederick, Maryland, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

He died in Washington, DC.

Forgotten for many years, Brumidi's role was rescued from obscurity by Myrtle Cheney Murdock.

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7 comments:

Etrusco-Umbro-Gallic said...

"Modern Romans are Northern in character".

Well, not quite correct and let me explain why. Actually, what do you mean by "modern"?

Since the 1970s, a lot of Sicilians, Neapolitans, and Pugliese migrated to Rome(due to its relative proximity) and now account for the majority of people's ancestry there. The current mayor of Rome is Pugliese.

But, yes, during the Dark Ages, Medieval era,early modern era and and even into the early 20th century, yes, Rome was "Northern" in character---like Tuscany or Umbria.

Etrusco-Umbro-Gallic said...

That statement incorrectly implies something else, as well.

It implies, somehow, that, by contrast, Ancient Rome was southern, or Mediterranean, in character. Again, not quite true.

In the Republic days, besides Etruscans("northern"), Rome was inhabited by Latins, Volsci, and others like Sabines and Umbrians. None of these Italic tribes were Mediterranean folks, in my opinion. Their respective cultures were characterized by small settlements, emphasis on courage and honesty, and a great degree of individualism.

Rome became more "Mediterranean", or "Southern", during the Empire days when thousands of Greeks, Jews, Syrians, Berbers, Egyptians, etc. moved into the city and came to constitute an overall majority of its free citizens.
Plus, there was the large Near Eastern slave population in the city.

Btw, slavery on a massive scale is something the Italic tribes learned from those aforementioned Mediterranid people.

Camun said...

A lot of groups are loosely called "Italic tribes," but were descended from ancient "Alpines" I think. In addition, modern demographic names would have meant something different in the ancient world. For example, a "Syrian" would likely have meant a Phoenician-type. Also, there were Gaulish and Germanic tribes who sacked Rome at its end.

Camun said...

I wasn't aware that Rome had changed in that way. I had just heard a few stores about how many authentic modern Romans were unhappy about this migration.

Etrusco-Umbro-Gallic said...

Well, by Italic tribes, I was talking about the tribes who spoke Indo-European languages distinct from Celtic: Veneti, Umbri, Piceni, Sabini, Latini, and Sanniti. I am not implying they were significantly different, racially, than the Etruscans. Probably not the case.

And, yes, they moved down across the peninsula. Samnites really branched off from the Umbri and migrated southward where they later mixed with and were assimilated by the Greeks in the area(and later Levantine immigrants).

The question of whether they were Alpine or not is a good one. It makes sense. But they could also have been "Emilian". Emilia, after all, is supposed to have been the center of the Villanovan civilization, the supposed precursor of various later peoples of Italy. Emilia was also an integral area of the Etruscan civilization.

But, then again,supposing this is true, where did they come from to eventually settle in Emilia?

Etrusco-Umbro-Gallic said...

As far as the sack of Rome goes, I think many or even most of the actual troops as well as the skilled administrative staff were, of non-Germanic stock. Gallic? Probably. Or even Dacian since Gothic forces migrated across the region. Most likely of Y-haplotype R1B, which is not really associated with Nordicity.

The nobility was Germanic, however.

Etrusco-Umbro-Gallic said...

Well, it makes sense that Rome has had those changes because of its relative proximity to the south.

Well, to be sure, Rome has had immigrants from other regions, as well, like Emilia and Veneto. Enrico Fermi's father was Emilian, for example.

Point is that it is not easy to find authentic Romans in the city. There are still some left in Rome's periphery as well as Ciociaria, I would reckon.

As for as the Viterbese, well, they are more like Umbrians and southern Tuscans than Latins.