91. Overall view of the canopy and frieze in the Rotunda of
the U. S. Capitol with scaffold erected in June 1987
(photo: Architect of the Capitol).
I find the drawing and coloring most agreeable and
beautiful. The perspective is so well managed that I
doubt whether any one not well acquainted with the
construction of such edifices as the Dome could determine by the mere use of his eyes the form and position
of the canopy on which it is painted. The figures appear to take their places in space with the illusion of a
diorama. I am glad that the country at length possesses
a Cupola on whose vault is painted a fresco picture
after the manner of the great edifices of the old world.
Its full effect will again be seen when the scaffolding is removed (Plate 91).
Many questions remain to be answered about Brumidi's work: its exact chronology, his early
influences in Italy, the specific sources of his visual images and iconography, the role of his assistants, and finally, what impact, if any, his illusionistic frescoes had on other artists and other
mural designs in America. The uncovering of Brumidi's achievements, which have long been
hidden under layers of grime and overpaint, and
the understanding of his techniques and working
methods, revealed during the process of conservation, provide the firm groundwork for further
research and a basis for appreciation of his importance in creating monumental decoration in
the Italian tradition consonant with the Neoclassical style of the United States Capitol.
A survey of the murals in the Capitol was first
made for the Architect of the Capitol in 1981, and
mural conservation was begun in 1983. Congress
appropriated funds for the frieze in 1986 and for the
canopy and H-144 in 1987. Bernard Rabin has been
assisted by Constance Silver and Lawrence Keck. For
the frieze, he had the additional assistance of Ron
Coleman; and for the canopy, Todd Overturf and Perry
Hurt. The conservators consult regularly with the Curator and their work is periodically inspected by the
Architect of the Capitol, George M. White.
L. Mora, with
P. Philippot, The Conservation of Wall Painting, London [ICCROM], 1984. For
their role in the conservation of the Sistine Chapel,
see M. K. Tally, " Michelangelo Rediscovered," Art
News, LXXXVI, 1987, 164, 169. Recent projects have included Mantegna's Camera degli Sposi in Mantua, the
tomb of Nefertiti in Egypt, Pompeian wall paintings,
and murals in Mexico City. Among the conservation
scientists being consulted is Dr. Robert Feller of the
Research Center on the Materials of the Artist and
Conservator, Mellon Institute, Pittsburgh. Sheldon
Keck has also offered his perspective on the project.
One of the first articles on Brumidi was