The Allegorical Groupings
The following descriptions are taken from S.D. Wyeth's six-page pamphlet, "Description of Brumidi's Allegorical Paintings Within the Canopy of the Rotunda."
Ceres, the Goddess of Harvests and the Fields, with the Horn of Plenty, is in the center. Young America, with Liberty Cap, of red, the bonnet rouge of France, having under his control a pair of vigorous horses hitched to an American Reaper, in conscious pride is exhibiting his skill. The background is a luxuriant mass of prolific vegetation. Flora is gathering flowers, and, hovering near, is a cherub. Beyond is Pomona with a basket of fruit.
Vulcan, the old stalwart Tubal Cain of Grecian mythology, is the colossal genius of this group. His right foot rests on a cannon. Machinery, forges, mortars, and cannon balls, strewn around, remind us of forging thunderbolts, as well as of combat with and victory over, the giant forces of nature, and making them subservient to human will and purposes.
Mercury, the Protector of Travellers and Merchants, holds in his hand a bag of gold, to which he is directing the attention of Robert Morris, the Financier of the American Revolution. It was he who guided to a successful issue the entangled pecuniary embarrassments of our country in its struggle for independence. Alas! for himself, he died a bankrupt, and in confinement for debt. Boxes of merchandise, and bales of goods, with men at work among them, are to be seen. Two sailors point to a gunboat in the distance.
Neptune, in marine state, bearing his trident, in his car, accompanied by his charioteer and attendants, is emerging astonished from the deep. The beautiful Aphrodite (Venus), borne of the sea foam, half risen from the waves, holds in her hand the Atlantic Cable, given her by a winged cherub, and is about dropping it into the sea.
Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, stands gloriously prominent, with the helmet and spear, as she springs full-grown from the brain of Jupiter. In meek attitudes, but with glowing faces, attentive to her teachings, are Benjamin Franklin, Printer and Philosopher, Robert Fulton, of Steamboat renown, and S.F.B. Morse, the generally acknowledged inventor of the Magnetic Telegraph. There are also boys, with wondering eyes and expressive gestures, listening to the instructions of a school teacher.
Freedom, terrible in vengeance, with upraised sword, is striking down Tyranny and Kingly Power. They are overcome, and flee from her wrath in dismay; with them is Anger, and also Vengeance and Discord, bearing the incendiary torch. An angry Eagle, striking with his beak, is fighting for, and by the side of, Freedom.