CONSTANTINO BRUMIDI: BIOGRAPHY
Constantino Brumidi painted scores of frescoes in the United States Capitol. In addition to "The Apotheosis of George Washington" which appears in the Capitol dome in the Rotunda, Brumidi created artworks in the House of Representatives Chamber, many committee rooms, the President's Room, the Senate Reception Room, and throughout the corridors of the Capitol. One cannot tour the United States Capitol without being inundated with the work of Brumidi. The West Corridor of the Capitol has been termed the "Brumidi Corridor." The influence of Constantino Brumidi's artistic sensibilities on the artwork of the nation's Capitol are undisputed, but definitive and scholarly treatments of Brumidi's life and work are less evident.
Constantino Brumidi was born in Italy in 1805. He grew up in Rome, and studied at the
Italian Academy of Arts. He
immigrated to America in 1852, at the age of forty-seven. For the rest of his life (some
twenty-seven years), Brumidi devoted his time to numerous commissioned frescoes, paintings,
and sculpture in the Capitol building. The only known quote from Brumidi has been preserved by
American author Smith Fry, who asserts that upon reaching America Brumidi said
I have no longer any desire for fame and fortune. My one ambition and my daily prayer is that I may live long enough to make beautiful the Capitol of the one country on earth in which there is liberty.
This quote may be inauthentic. Mr. Fry, the author of "Thrilling Story of the Wonderful Capitol Building and Its Marvelous Contents" (1911) and "Fry's Patriotic Story of the Capitol" (1911), provides no documentation.
In 1860, Brumidi married an American woman named Lola Germon.
There is no information on his first (Italian) marriage, but he did keep in contact with a daughter, Elena, who remained in Rome.
On February 18, 1880, Constantino Brumidi died at his home in Washington, D.C. Brumidi died in relative penury, but Congressional records indicate that he was well-paid. Originally, his salary was pegged to the annual salaries awarded to United States Congressmen, but this was eventually changed to a per diem ranging from eight to ten dollars. The largest work commissioned, "The Apotheosis of George Washington," was contracted for a lump sum of $40,000. Brumidi received all but the $500 reserved for completion of the project.
Brumidi's reputation waxed and waned, both during and after his lifetime. For almost one hundred years after his death, his grave in Washington was unmarked and unadorned. Little notice was made of the artist of the Capitol frescoes. The public's limited awareness of the existence of Brumidi was expanded by a conscious resurrection of his reputation in the 1950's by Myrtle Cheney Murdock.
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