WASHINGTON — Constantino Brumidi came to the U.S. Capitol in the 1850s after emigrating from Italy, found its walls bare and worked until his dying day to adorn them with frescoes and friezes.
"The art here doesn't sit idle on display every day. It summons the building to life and replenishes the soul of the Congress," House Speaker John A. Boehner(R-Ohio) said before he and other congressional leaders posthumously awarded Brumidi the Congressional Gold Medal. "This of course is the legacy of Brumidi, who filled his work with such color and attention to detail and tradition that it is unavoidable and too captivating to be ignored."
The award marks another step in the rehabilitation of Brumidi's works, which had been damaged over time.
Brumidi crammed the corridors and rooms of the Capitol with scenes from American history. His greatest projects were "The Apotheosis of George Washington" in the Capitol Rotunda, which shows the first president ascending to heaven flanked by women representing the colonies, and the frieze below it depicting American history from the arrival of Columbus.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) described his early appreciation for the artist, recalling his awe roaming the halls of the Capitol as a police officer on the night shift in the 1960s.