Art at Lunch: Reproducing the Rotunda: Currency, Performance, and Protest in Nineteenth Century Print Culture


In 1837, Congress tasked four American artists, John Vanderlyn, Robert Weir, John Grigsby Chapman, and William Henry Powell, with the prestigious assignment of filling the vacant panels in the US Capitol rotunda. By 1855, the project was complete, and four monumental canvases lined the walls of the Rotunda, each featuring a different narrative of the nation’s founding. Over the course of the nineteenth century, the Rotunda paintings would be reproduced in countless forms, ranging from the practical and domestic to the commercial and spectacular. Stamps and playing cards, posters and stereoscopic views — these ephemeral items established an iconography of national values familiar to individuals across the United States. PAFA Curatorial Assistant Natalia Angeles Vieyra will explore these reproductions, considering how they worked to disseminate, capitalize on, and sometimes even subvert the founding narratives represented by the paintings of the US Capitol Rotunda.