Victorian-era ceilings at Michigan Capitol draw new attention

by AryanArtnews
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Visitors looking up at the dome of the Michigan State Capitol can see the ceiling painted to look like the sky.

LANSING — The Michigan State Capitol will open a new underground visitor and event center in Heritage Hall this summer, according to Capitol historian and curator Valerie Marvin. It will feature a historic building ceiling design by Christian Weidemann.

According to Marvin, Weidman was a Detroit artist who was the foreman on the Capitol decoration and painting project from 1885 to 1890.

Marvin said the exhibit, which has been under construction for two to three years, will include a new orientation room, conservation lab, historical exhibition and historical planning space. It is expected to be the venue for large conferences, events and events.

Christian Weidemann painted the 19th century sunburst ceiling, and he led the decorative painting of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.

According to Marvin, Weidmann worked for the William Wright Company and likely completed the original artwork when it was first built in the 19th century. The art was inspired by 19th and early 20th century Victorian art that was popular at the time.

“Victorians believed that a beautiful setting would inspire people to work hard,” Marvin said. “Victorians often put a lot of decoration on the ceiling and they wanted your eyes to look up.”

“Tall buildings were difficult to build during this period, so the idea was that if our eyes kept pointing upwards, it would make us think the space was bigger than it actually was,” Marvin said.

Sunburst ceilings are located on the first floor of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.

State Capitol Committee member Bill Candler said it was “very unique and special.”

“We’re told that the Michigan State Capitol is one of the finest examples of a Victorian interior of any public building in the country,” Candler said.

David Kidd, a photojournalist for Governing Magazine who has visited 30 state capitols over the past dozen years, saw Weidmann’s work on the Capitol ceiling and said it was striking to him because it Bold and bright colors cover every surface.

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