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Pompeii on the Potomac: Constantino Brumidi’s Nineteenth-Century, Roman-Style Frescoes for the Naval Affairs Committee Room in the U.S. Capitol Building

March 14, 2018 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

The US Capitol Historical Society

Elise FriedlandMarch 14, 2018Pompeii on the Potomac: Constantino Brumidi’s Nineteenth-Century, Roman-Style Frescoes for the Naval Affairs Committee Room in the U.S. Capitol Building. This talk examines Constantino Brumidi’s first full-scale commission in the Senate extension wing of the US Capitol Building, the fresco cycle painted on the walls and ceiling of the former Naval Affairs Committee meeting room completed in 1858 (now the Senate Appropriations Committee room, S-127). The room stands out among Brumidi’s other work in the Capitol for its coherent narrative and entirely Pompeian style. After presenting new research that has revealed multiple matches between motifs in the Senate room and paintings discovered at Pompeii and other Campanian sites, this talk will address the models for Brumidi’s design; Brumidi’s and Montgomery Meigs’ goals in choosing such a wholly Pompeian style; and the contemporary reception of the room. Despite immediate mixed reviews of its subject matter and style, today S-127 is praised as one of the gems of Capitol for its decorative program. This unique room deserves careful study for its central role in introducing the genre of Pompeian-style fresco décor to the US, for the firm beliefs of its artist and patron in the critical role of public art in our nation’s capital, and for its impact on the study and collecting of ancient art in nineteenth-century America.

Friedland is an Associate Professor of Classics and Art History in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the George Washington University.  She holds a BA in Classics from Williams College and an MA and PhD in Classical art and archaeology from the University of Michigan. Prof. Friedland specializes in Roman marble sculpture imported and displayed in the ancient Near East and has published two co-edited volumes, The Sculptural Environment of the Roman Near East: Reflections on Culture, Ideology, and Power (2008, Peeters Press) and TheOxford Handbook of Roman Sculpture (2015, OUP). as well as a monograph, The Roman Marble Sculptures from the Sanctuary of Pan at Caesarea Philippi/Panias (Israel) (2012, ASOR’s Archaeological Report Series). Her current research which investigates American adoptions and adaptations of Classical motifs grows out of a course she developed for GW, entitled “Greece and Rome in Washington, DC: Classical Influences on Our Founding Fathers.” In 2013, she was awarded both GW’s Bender Teaching Award and the Archaeological Institute of America’s national Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. Location, in Ketchum Hall in the Veterans Foreign Wars Building (200 Maryland Ave. NE; Washington, DC 20002).



March 14, 2018
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Event Category:


United States Capitol Historical Society