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Image: West Front of the United States Capitol 1997 photograph

Pompeii and the United States Capitol

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Born and trained in Rome, Constantino Brumidi moved to the United States in 1852 and three years later was hired to create murals in the Capitol. His paintings for the Naval Affairs Committee Room (since 1912 the Senate Appropriations Conference Room) are based on his study of Pompeian wall decoration and, specifically, the fresco of a maenad shown here. After engravings of that fresco appeared in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century books on archaeological finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum, floating nymphs became a popular motif for wall paintings.


Brumidi's watercolor depicts two alternate designs for the room; the one showing maenads floating against a blue background was ultimately chosen. In his final version of the mural, the Pompeian maenad patriotically waves a star-studded flag.

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