Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Capitol Dome Interior

Ever wondered what was actually inside the big dome of the Capitol in Washington, DC? Yes, it's filled with worthless talk and hot air, but the building itself is a massive stack of neo-classical ornament and decorative art. What you see here is only part of the pile of layers which are derived from classical Roman buildings such as the Pantheon. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries when they were conceiving these edifices, most educated men had a classical education with emphasis on Greek and Roman artistic and political literature and ideals. They tried to imbue our Republic with the spirit of those toga-clad, heroic Romans who took their political work very seriously, to the point of having their portraits done in Roman garb.

We've got a different type of Rome in Washington today, an Imperial Rome full of madness and excess, and we had better watch carefully while Caligula and Commodus cavort in their pleasure palaces. The old decor, though, still rules under the white dome.

I did this drawing on site a long time ago. It's as good as any architectural drawing I've done since. 

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2", December 31,1981. I wasn't living in the DC area yet, just visiting.

1 comment:

Texchanchan said...

Reminds me of the Texas state capitol, which, for the record, is taller than the US capitol. On purpose. When I was a student at UT it was deserted at night except for four old or disabled policemen who acted as guards. So we would hike down there from the school (about half a mile?) and play around in the capitol, wandering all over it, poking into the corners, seeing what the basement looked like, playing hide-and-seek. I remember lying on the floor once looking up into the many-story rotunda, imagining it was a rotating space colony and getting vertigo.

There are statues of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin there by Elizabet Ney, a 19th-century sculptor who lived and worked in Austin when it was just a town, dominated by the capitol and the university.