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Impearls: GWAC: George Washington - Apotheosis of Character

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Earthdate 2009-12-15

George Washington – Apotheosis of Character

Constantino Brumidi's Apotheosis of Washington, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.

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Constantino Brumidi's Apotheosis of Washington, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.


Enthroned above a rainbow (in Constantino Brumidi's stunning masterpiece “The Apotheosis of Washington”), the deified George Washington — first President of the United States and acclaimed as “father of his country” — regards us from on high as the Lord of Hosts and Supreme Judge of the Universe.  With a gesture at the Law/Constitution on the one hand, upraising a downturned sword with the other — flanked by the goddesses of Liberty (grasping the traditional Roman fasces of authority) and Victory/Fame (cradling a palm of victory whilst flourishing the clarion of fame) — the apotheosized Washington sits haloed by a constellation of thirteen Starry maidens, hoisting a banner proclaiming E Pluribus Unum.

Round about that scene (starting at bottom, thence proceeding clockwise) are depicted tableaus of War, Science, “Marine,” Commerce, Mechanics, and Agriculture — occupying the crown of the great dome arching above the Capitol, within whose hallowed halls the Congress of the United States sits and holds session.

Detail: George Washington as Lord of Hosts and Supreme Judge of the Universe

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Detail: George Washington as Lord of Hosts and Supreme Judge of the Universe


This year (2009) marks the 210th anniversary of the passing (on earthdate 1799-12-15) of the man who, first as a general in war, won the freedom of the people of the United States of America; thereafter in peace (after the ignominious failure of the first American constitution, the Articles of Confederation) presided by acclamation over the Constitutional Convention, which — composed of all-time exceptionally clear-headed political thinkers — drafted the Constitution of the United States, still in effect today (a monumental accomplishment compared with the experience of almost every other country in the world); finally serving two terms as the first constitutional President of the unified American nation.  Beyond those stupendous achievements was his final voluntary withdrawal after those elected terms of office, retiring to his Mount Vernon estate and removing himself entirely from subsequent politics — which, one might judge, due to the outstanding example presented to his successors and to posterity, as equal to all the preceding actions of his eventful career.  These acts made Washington the stuff of legend — an almost deliberate hearkening back to Republican Rome in its grandeur.

Nowadays, following the turn of the 21st century, the extraordinary devoted homage earlier eras in America paid to its founding General and President seems more than a bit mysterious.  Portrayals of Washington in powdered wig and the 18th century elite attire of the day present a notably quaint appearance today, and though founder of the U.S.A. (which somehow in retrospect seems a very easy thing to do, even foreordained), really — so the “modern,” irreverent trendy line of thought goes — what did he do that was so all-fired great?  Folk today typically know little of the period or the man, so nothing (or very little) is usually the implied answer — and since most folks' dilettantish inquiries seldom go further, that's usually the end of their investigation.

However, after ten score and ten years it's high time in my view for people to once again begin to reacquaint themselves with the great man and the impact, the effect the sheer force of his character has had, on America and indeed the history of the world.


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