- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2003

Brumidi’s due

We recently recommended you cover your children’s eyes next time you find them gazing upon the beautifully painted canopy of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Legend has it that renowned artist Constantino Brumidi’s masterpiece fresco features 13 Washington prostitutes flanking George Washington.

The 13 women, representing the 13 original states, were said to be friends of “the Michelangelo of the Capitol,” who spent more than 25 years painting the corridors, committee rooms and the Rotunda of the Capitol, the latter titled “The Apotheosis of Washington.”

“My one ambition and my daily prayer,” Brumidi once said, “is that I may live long enough to make beautiful the Capitol of the one country in which there is liberty.”

The same words appear on Brumidi’s grave marker, which wasn’t erected until 1952 on the 72nd anniversary of his death. Myrtle Cheney Murdock, wife of Rep. John Robert Murdock, Arizona Democrat, rescued Brumidi from obscurity when she had difficulty finding the unmarked grave. When his monument was unveiled by Congress at Washington’s Glenwood Cemetery, House Speaker Sam Rayburn gave the keynote address.

This summer, Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi and Rep. John L. Mica of Florida, both Republicans, introduced identical resolutions honoring Brumidi, who painted in Rome and the Vatican before immigrating to the United States in 1850.

“In 1865, Brumidi spent 11 months dangerously high atop the Capitol Rotunda laboring … in the eye of the Capitol dome,” Mr. Mica noted. In fact, Joseph Grano, chairman of the Constantino Brumidi Society in Washington, says the artist’s career “came to a close in 1880, after slipping and nearly falling from a scaffold while painting the Rotunda frieze. He died three months later.”

All told, Mr. Grano educates, Brumidi painted the Capitol dome, the frieze around the Rotunda, six committee rooms, and the President’s and Vice President’s rooms. In 1871, he created the first tribute to a black American by placing Crispus Attucks at the center of his fresco of the Boston Massacre.

When not decorating the Capitol, Brumidi painted churches in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City.

Didn’t work

Estimated number of soccer balls the U.S. government sent to Iraq this summer to help “bring life back to normal”: 60,000.

Harper’s Index, September 2003

Peace day

What a difference two years make.

Thursday, on the second anniversary of September 11, Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams will issue a proclamation declaring the day “Children’s Peace Day.”

While it hasn’t received near the publicity of last evening’s glitzy Britney Spears concert on the National Mall leading up to the Washington Redskins NFL season opener, the world’s premier international children’s celebration will take place on the Mall Tuesday through Thursday. The International ChildArt Festival is held every four years.

What retirement?

Recently retired House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, co-chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy, visited Birmingham yesterday to rally antitax troops against the largest tax increase in Alabama’s history.

CSE and its Alabama members are actively opposing Republican Gov. Bob Riley’s attempt to raise taxes by $1.2 billion to address a $675 million government deficit and to increase government spending.

Russian ladies

George Washington’s hometown of Alexandria is currently hosting a delegation of eight Russian female leaders, introducing them to American female leaders and sharing ideas about how various cultures deal with public policy.

The program is also focusing on the American system of federalism from the perspectives of those in government roles, as well as those of citizens participating through nongovernmental organizations.

The Russian women in the coming days will meet with Virginia state Sen. Patsy Ticer and Delegate Marian Van Landingham, Alexandria Deputy Mayor Redella Pepper, City Council member Joyce Woodson and Tamera Luzzatto, chief of staff to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

The visit is a part of the Open World program of the Center for Russian Leadership at the Library of Congress.

Pass the straws

There was much reaction to our item yesterday on Mother Jones magazine’s “Top 10 Activist Campuses,” which this year includes two Washington-area schools and the University of Chicago.

“I finished my master’s program at U. Chicago in May of 2002 and just plain fail to see how anyone can classify that school as activist,” writes G.S. “The most vocal activity on campus is $1 milkshake Tuesdays, and while there was a pro-Palestinian demonstration one day that lasted all of 60 minutes before students went back to class. We must be in a pretty tame period of social unrest for U. Chicago to break the top-ten.”

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslinwashingtontimes.com.

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