Up until last year, if you went to the second-floor gallery of American art, you’d find a celestial scene with George Washington—surrounded by angels—at the center of it. The circular painting was a study for The Apotheosis of Washington—the painting that hovers over the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building. The work was on loan for years to the Honolulu Museum of Art, which cared for and displayed it. (Docent Marilyn Smith included it in her Tour + Tea about artwork mentioned in the novel The Lost Symbol.) The owner’s family retrieved the historic piece and put it up for auction—an act that earned an article in the Washington Post. On March 4, Skinner auction house in Boston sold the painting for $539,500 to the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. Curator of European and American Art Theresa Papanikoas is extremely happy that the painting is going to the venerable institution.
We are grateful to have had the chance to share Brumidi’s study with Hawai‘i, and hope you were able to see it. Now you’ll have to fly to Washington, D.C., to get another look.