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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

The Apotheosis of Washington
Rotunda Canopy Painting in the U.S. Capitol

The Apotheosis of Washington in the eye of the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol was painted in the true fresco technique by Constantino Brumidi in 1865.

Six groups of figures line the perimeter of the canopy, two of which are of interest to telegraph historians:

Science: Minerva teaching Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton, and Samuel F.B. Morse.

Marine: Neptune holding his trident and Venus holding the transatlantic cable, which was being laid at the time the fresco was painted.

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Overall view of the dome fresco

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Closer view of the full fresco

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Marine, with Venus
holding the Atlantic Cable

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Science, with Minerva teaching Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Morse, among others

Brumidi (1805-1880) was born and trained in Rome and had painted in the Vatican and Roman palaces before emigrating to the United States in 1852. A master of creating the illusion of three-dimensional forms and figures on flat walls, Brumidi painted frescoes and murals throughout the Capitol from 1855 until his death. The canopy fresco, his most ambitious work at the Capitol, was painted in eleven months at the end of the Civil War, soon after the new dome was completed, for $40,000. Suspended 180 feet above the Rotunda floor, it covers an area of 4,664 square feet. The figures, up to 15 feet tall, were painted to be intelligible from close up as well as from 180 feet below. Some of the groups and figures were inspired by classical and Renaissance images, especially by those of the Italian master Raphael.

Text and images above from the Architect of the Capitol website

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Stereoview: Allegorical Painting, U.S. Capitol
Entered according to Act of Congress, A.D. 1866,
by G.D. Wakely, in the District Court of Washington, D.C.

Detail of Marine section of stereoview

Neptune, god of the sea, holding his trident and crowned with
seaweed, rides in a shell chariot drawn by sea horses. Venus,
goddess of love born from the sea, helps lay the transatlantic cable.
In the background is a form of iron-clad ship with smokestacks.

Copyright © 2007 FTL Design

Last revised: 30 October, 2007

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