Beginning in 1855, Constantino Brumidi decorated many walls and ceilings in the U.S. Capitol, most prominently in the Capitol Rotunda and the corridors of the Senate wing. His murals combine classical and allegorical subjects with portraits and scenes from American history, and tributes to American values and inventions.
Brumidi worked on an impressive number of projects in the Capitol, including these six important rooms:
This is the first room that Brumidi ever painted in the U.S. Capitol. Originally occupied by the House Committee on Agriculture, it's now held by the House Appropriations Committee.
The Calling of Cincinnatus from the Plow (pictured above) is the first fresco by Brumidi. It depicts a retired Roman general recalled to defend his city, a classical event often seen as parallel to the life of George Washington. In the lunette on the opposite wall he painted a parallel scene from American history, The Calling of Putnam from the Plow to the Revolution. Figures personifying the Four Seasons appear to float on clouds in the ceiling.
Now named the Lyndon B. Johnson Room, S-211 was intended to be the Senate Library but was first used by the Senate Post Office. In recent years the room has been used for Senate meetings such as party caucuses and conferences.
The center of the ceiling contains a medallion of acanthus leaves with striped shields in the corners. Borders of morning glories on dark red fields encircle four lunettes painted in true fresco featuring allegorical figures which represent Geography, History, Telegraph (pictured above) and Physics.
The Senate Reception Room, S-213, is where senators meet their constituents in the U.S. Capitol. The room was first called the "antechamber of the Senate," the "Receiving Room of the Senate," and later in the nineteenth century, the "Ladies Reception Room."
Brumidi's ceiling frescoes in this room depict figures representing the virtues of Temperance, Strength, Prudence and Justice as well as War (seen in the cover photo at top), Peace, Freedom and Plenty. On the upper walls are maidens and cherubs in trompe l'oeil, creating the illusion they're three-dimensional marble. Many of the symbols depicted in this room are also seen in the Rotunda, the President's Room (below) and other Capitol spaces.
The President's Room, S-216, was intended to provide convenience for the chief executive when visiting the Capitol. Presidents once used the room to sign legislation into law at the close of each session of Congress, however this practice ended in 1933 with the passage of the 20th amendment, which established different ending dates for presidential and congressional terms of office. Although occasionally used by presidents, the room today is utilized primarily by senators for press conferences and meetings.
Brumidi decorated the room with allegorical and historical figures on the ceiling while the walls were painted with portraits of George Washington and members of his first cabinet. In the corners of the ceiling are four figures representing fundamental aspects of the development of the nation: Amerigo Vespucci for Exploration, Christopher Columbus for Discovery, Benjamin Franklin (pictured above) for History, and Pilgrim leader William Brewster for Religion.
This room is designed in Pompeian style with a theme of the sea. Originally designed for and used by the Committee on Naval Affairs, S-127 is where the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations now meets.
An allegorical figure representing America and numerous classical gods (such as Neptune, pictured above) and goddesses related to the sea are painted on the ceiling in true fresco. The pilasters and lower walls are painted to look like marble, and floating female figures holding nautical and marine objects appear in nine blue panels.
The Senate Committee on Military Affairs and Militia first occupied S-128, which is ornately decorated with shields, emblems of war and peace, and small illusionistic sculptural groups with historic scenes related to the Revolutionary War.
Five frescoed lunettes depict the Battle of Lexington, the Boston Massacre, Washington at Valley Forge (pictured above), Death of General Wooster and Storming of Stony Point. Under four of the lunettes are illusionistic plaques holding the title of the scene, flanked by cherubs with garlands of flowers. Plain panels framed with leafy designs fill the walls.