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Constantino Brumidi, "The Artist of the U.S. Capitol" will receive the Congressional Gold Medal

 
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Constantino Brumidi, "The Artist of the U.S. Capit... - 6/17/2008 2:20:04 PM   
Roberta

 

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Constantino Brumidi, "The Artist of the U.S. Capitol" will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, posthumously.
On June 10, 2008, the House of Representatives took up the Senate version of the Constantino Brumidi Congressional Gold Medal Bill (S. 254). Floor Manager, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), moved to suspend the rules. There was no objection and the bill passed. The bill will now be sent to President Bush who is expected to sign it.
Brumidi was born in 1805 in Rome of a Greek father and an Italian mother. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1852. His artwork adorns numerous rooms in the Capitol, including several committee rooms, the Office of the Vice President, and the President’s Room. Brumidi’s crowning achievement is "The Apotheosis of Washington" in the eye of the Capitol dome. He died in Washington in 1880.
Primarily to be recognized and thanked for this great accomplishment are the sponsors of the bills in the Senate and House, Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY) and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), respectively. Because of the two-thirds cosponsorship requirement, Gold Medal bills are not passed without the total support, commitment and personal involvement of the sponsors. (S. 254 had ALL 100 senators as cosponsors and the House bill, H.R. 1609, had 307 cosponsors). Simply put, without the effort of these two great legislators, Brumidi would not be receiving this most prestigious award. Three cheers for Rep. Pascrell and Senator Enzi!!!
If you would like to express your thanks to these two distinguished gentlemen, I suggest you send an e-mail message to Senator Enzi by way of his staffer, John Hallmark, who worked on passage of the Senate bill, at john_hallmark@enzi.senate.gov, and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., by way of his staffer, Stephanie Krenrich, who also worked on the House bill, at stephanie.krenrich@mail.house.gov. Please, identify your city and state in your letter.
Other Members of Congress, to be thanked for their contributions to finding cosponsors are Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), John Mica (R-FL), Zack Space (D-OH), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Rick Renzi (R-AZ).
Also, garnering support for the House bill (H.R. 1609) were the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and The Constantino Brumidi Society. I am personally grateful for the advice and support of AHEPA and NIAF staff. In addition, the efforts of the Order Sons of Italy in America, (OSIA), The Lido Civic Club of Washington, D.C. and the OSIA Constantino Brumidi Lodge of Deer Park, New York should not be overlooked.
Finally, last, but not least, to be thanked, are all the Friends of Constantino Brumidi who contacted their members of Congress on behalf of this legislation.
After the bill becomes law, a unique gold medal bearing Brumidi’s image will be designed and cast by the U.S. Mint. Hopefully, next year, an official ceremony by the Congress bestowing the Gold Medal on Brumidi, posthumously, will take place in the Rotunda, beneath Brumidi’s "Apotheosis of Washington." Afterwards, the Medal will be permanently displayed in the new Capitol Visitor Center as part of an exhibit honoring Brumidi. Bronze copies of the medal will be offered for sale to the public.
To give some perspective on the prestige and uniqueness of this medal it should be understood that the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award of the Federal government. Congress has passed bills awarding the Congressional Gold Medal only 135 times since the first Congress in 1789
219 years ago. (Contrast this to the other well-known award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented 300 times since 1946). Congressional Gold Medals were originally awarded to military leaders and war heroes. (The first was awarded to George Washington in 1776 by the Continental Congress). Now, the Medal is awarded for outstanding accomplishment and service in all fields of endeavor and is also given to foreigners. For example, John Paul II was awarded it in 2000 and the Dalai Lama in 2006. Each solid Gold Medal is unique; both the front and back, are individually designed to reflect the life and career of the recipient.
The only person of Greek descent, who was awarded the Medal, is Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in 1997.
The only person from Italy who was awarded the Medal was Umberto Nobile, in 1928, along with two others. Nobile was the pilot of an airship that crossed the North Pole. An American of Italian descent, Ben Abruzzo, also, along with two others, was awarded the Medal in 1979 for the first successful transatlantic balloon flight. And, of course, Frank Sinatra was awarded the Medal in 1997.
Constantino Brumidi was born July 26, 1805 in Rome, Italy, to Stauros Brumidi, an immigrant from Greece, and Anna Bianchini Brumidi, of Rome. He trained as an artist and painted in Rome, including at the Vatican. He was so respected as an artist that he was commissioned to do a portrait of Pope Pius, IX. Arriving on September 18, 1852 in New York City as a political refugee, he became an American citizen in 1857. Brumidi began painting in the U.S. Capitol on February 19, 1855, and spent more than 25 years of his life painting, decorating and beautifying the corridors and committee rooms, and most notably the Rotunda of the Capitol. He created many magnificent paintings and decorations depicting the history, inventions, values and ideals of the United States, thus enhancing the dignity and beauty of the Capitol and inspiring tens of millions of visitors. In just eleven months of 1865, he painted his masterpiece, The Apotheosis of Washington, in the canopy over the eye of the Capitol dome. In 1871, Brumidi created the first tribute to an African American in the Capitol when he placed the figure of Crispus Attucks at the center of his painting of the Revolutionary War-era Boston Massacre. He died February 19, 1880, exactly 25 years to the day that he first began work in the Capitol. Brumidi is buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Washington, D.C. In 1950, the United States Congress authorized and funded a marker on Brumidi’s grave there, in honor of his commitment to the decoration of the Capitol.

During the American phase of his life, Brumidi continued to paint in Catholic churches as he had in Rome. His work may be seen in St. Aloysius Church, Washington DC, as well as churches in Baltimore and Philadelphia, and, most especially in St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in New York City (now called Our Lady of the Scapular and St. Stephen’s).
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