Historical Highlights

The First Meeting of Captain Montgomery Meigs and Artist Constantino Brumidi

December 28, 1854
The First Meeting of Captain Montgomery Meigs and Artist Constantino Brumidi Image courtesy of Library of Congress As supervising engineer, Captain Montgomery Meigs (pictured above in 1861) was instrumental in overseeing the completion of the Capitol extensions and initial work on the new dome in the mid-19th century.
On this date, artist Constantino Brumidi met Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, engineer in charge of the construction and decoration of the Capitol extension. This initial meeting led to Brumidi’s appointment to paint frescos (painting on wet plaster walls) throughout the new sections of the Capitol over the next two decades, including the dome of the Rotunda. Brumidi moved to New York from Italy in 1852, shortly after receiving a pardon from a prison sentence related to his activities during the Republican Revolution in Italy in the late 1840s. Brumidi had worked steadily painting frescos in Rome, with projects completed in the Vatican and other notable institutions. After his arrival in the United States, he established himself in the Northeast painting portraits and decorating private residences. In 1854, Brumidi obtained an introduction to Captain Meigs while traveling through Washington, D.C. Prior to meeting Brumidi, Meigs had envisioned a grand decorative program for the Capitol, inspired by his research on the Vatican and the villas of Pompeii. With his experience in Italian decorative style and mastery of fresco technique, Brumidi was a good fit for Meigs's vision, and was soon asked to complete a test mural in the Capitol. The work—depicting the popular subject of the Roman General Cincinnatus—was a success, and Brumidi was hired to decorate the Capitol. He began work in 1855, and continued to paint the corridors, committee rooms and ceremonial spaces of the Capitol extension until his death in 1880.

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