As discussed at the Unemployed Philosophers Guild and Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection, these were prints that honored a dead political figure by showing him ascending to heaven.
After George Washington’s death at the end of 1799, the Irish-born artist John James Barralet produced a print, shown here, of the late President being received into heaven by Genius, Immortality, Faith, Hope, and Charity while Liberty and America mourn below.
That was such a popular image in America that after Abraham Lincoln’s murder in 1865 there was an apotheosis image copied from it.
S. J. Ferris portrayed Lincoln and Washington in heaven together with different degrees of slashiness.
“Apotheosis of Washington” was painted on the U.S. Capitol ceiling.
The earliest example of an American political apotheosis that I’ve spotted actually came from Revolutionary France in 1790: “L’Apôtre de le Liberté Immortalisé (The Apostle of Liberty Immortalized),” by Baricou Montbrun. This was a Parisian a response to the death of favorite diplomat Benjamin Franklin. The Newport Historical Society recently located a copy in its collection.
Titian’s “Rape of Europa” than a cheerful apotheosis.