House & Senate leaders held a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony this morning in honor of Constantino Brumidi for his many artistic contributions to the Capitol and the nation. Following are House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) remarks prior to the presentation of the medal, as prepared for delivery:
“‘An answer to a prayer’ is how the curator for the Architect of the Capitol has described Brumidi’s arrival in this city at the end of 1854. And rightly so.
“Here you had a Capitol that was, at that point, a perpetual construction site, embroiled in bickering and controversy. There were big ideas for the interior, but no artist to get them off the ground.
“In comes this son of Italy seizing on a second chance to do what he loves, to live out a dream he is not allowed to continue pursuing in his native land. It’s a perfect match, a truly American story.
“And it ends, as the best of them do, with the thanks of a grateful nation. For today the Capitol stands, in my view, as the finest gallery of art in the country. The art here doesn’t sit idle on display - every day, it summons the building to life and replenishes the soul of the Congress.
“This of course is the legacy of Brumidi, who filled his work with such color and attention to detail and tradition that it is unavoidable … too captivating to be ignored.
“Take the fresco above the Rotunda, which is represented on the medal we will be presenting shortly. It’s so beautiful, so enormous, so detailed, that you can’t help but be awed by it. We all know what it’s like to stand there, head craned back, trying to stare as long as you can without losing your balance. You pick out Washington rising to the heavens … Freedom trampling tyranny … the steam engine in the background, heading westward. There is a gravity to the fresco that draws us in … brings us closer to grasping how bold an idea America was, and still very much is.
“It’s fitting that the ultimate expression of Brumidi’s genius is the inspiration for the ultimate expression of Congress’s appreciation.
“I’m humbled to present this medal in honor of Brumidi – and, really, in honor of all the artists who have come after him, especially those who have labored to preserve his work.
“Because of them, and because of all of you, I look forward to the Capitol enduring as the world’s most elegant emblem of freedom.”