The United States Capitol - A Monument to Americans, A Important Collection of American Art
The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building, is the home of the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. The U.S. Capitol stands as a monument to the American people. It is where the issues facing the nation are considered, debated, and written into law. The U.S. Capitol also houses an important collection of American art, and it is an architectural achievement in its own right.
The Capitol is set amidst 58.8 acres of winding paths, memorial trees, inviting benches, and beautiful flowers that are changed seasonally. The grounds today reflect a plan completed in 1892 by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The Capitol is a landmark of neoclassical architecture. It was designed from ancient Greece and ancient Rome and applied the guiding principles of the founding fathers of this country in the design of the new republic. In this building we found solemn paintings, sculptures and other works of art that depict the various periods of American history.
The original Capitol was designed by Dr. William Thornton, and the cornerstone was laid by President George Washington on September 18, 1793. Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Charles Bulfinch, among other architects, directed its early construction. Unfortunately, this was how the Capitol appeared in August 1814, during America’s second war with Great Britain, when British troops burned the Capitol and other public buildings in Washington. The exterior walls survived, but much of the interior was gutted. Until 1819, the reconstructed wings of the Capitol were reopened.
The House occupied its current chamber in 1857, and the Senate moved into its chamber in 1859. The Old Hall of the House was later dedicated as National Statuary Hall. Congress invited each state to contribute two statues of its most notable citizens. Today, these statues are displayed in National Statuary Hall, the Rotunda, the Capitol Visitor Center and in corridors throughout the building. During the Civil War, work continued on the new cast-iron dome, designed by Thomas U. Walter. On December 2, 1863, the Statue of Freedom, sculpted by American artist Thomas Crawford, was placed at the top of the dome, 287 feet above the East Plaza. In the 1870s, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the terraces that run across the north, south, and west elevations of the Capitol. These terraces provided extra rooms as well as a grand pedestal for the building perched on the brow of Capitol Hill. By the opening of the 20th century, the need for more space again became acute. The first of the House and Senate office buildings were finished in 1908 and 1909, respectively. In the 1980s, the West Front was carefully repaired and restored. The most recent addition to the Capitol is the Capitol Visitor Center, constructed beneath the East Plaza and completed in 2008.
The United States Capitol is the most widely recognized symbol of democratic government in the world. It has housed Congress since 1800. The Capitol is where Congress meets to write the laws of this nation, and where presidents are inaugurated and deliver their State of the Union messages. For more than two centuries, the Capitol has grown along with the nation, adding new wings to accommodate the increasing number of senators and representatives as new states entered the Union. Its ceilings are decorated with historic images, and its halls are lined with statues and paintings representing great events and people from the nation’s history.
On the ground floor is an area known as the Crypt. It was intended to be the burial place of George Washington, with a ringed balustrade at the center of the Rotunda above looking down to his tomb. However, under the stipulations of his last will, Washington was buried at Mount Vernon. The Crypt houses exhibits on the history of the Capitol. A compass star inlaid in the floor marks the point at which Washington, D.C. is divided into its four quadrants and is the basis for how addresses in Washington, D.C., are designated (NE, NW, SE, or SW).
The Rotunda is the heart and center of the Capitol. Although it serves no legislative function, it is a ceremonial space where state funerals have been held since the time of Abraham Lincoln, for presidents, members of Congress, military heroes, and eminent citizens. Visiting heads of state and special guests are often received in the Rotunda, and many historic events have been celebrated there. Hanging in the Rotunda are four giant canvases painted by John Trumbull, an aide-de-camp to General Washington, who painted scenes of the American Revolution. Paintings by four other artists depict events associated with the exploration and settlement of the United States. On the canopy, suspended 180 feet above the Rotunda floor, the Italian-American artist Constantino Brumidi* painted The Apotheosis of Washington. It shows George Washington surrounded by symbols of American democracy and technological progress. Brumidi painted and decorated many of the rooms and corridors of the Capitol, and he was painting the frieze that rings the Rotunda when he died. His work, which illustrates major events in the Nation’s history, was completed by other artists.
In the central hall, we can see historical paintings and ring murals depicting important events in American history. The sculptures and busts in the central hall are mainly statues of the President of the United States, including George Washington, which was carved by Jean Antonie Houdon. Abraham Lincoln's marble sculpture was created by Vinnie Ream. Other American presidential statues in the Central Hall include Dwight David Eisenhower, James Abram Garfield, Ulysses Simpson Grant, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford. The sculptures in the central hall also include the monumental monuments of Alexander Hamilton, Martin Luther King, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott.
Within the Rotunda there are eight large paintings about the development of the United States as a nation. On the east side are four paintings depicting major events in the discovery of America. On the west are four paintings depicting the founding of the United States. The east side paintings include The Baptism of Pocahontas by John Gadsby Chapman, The Embarkation of the Pilgrims by Robert Walter Weir, The Discovery of the Mississippi by William Henry Powell, and The Landing of Columbus by John Vanderlyn. The paintings on the west side are by John Trumbull: Declaration of Independence, Surrender of General Burgoyne, Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, and General George Washington Resigning His Commission. Trumbull was a contemporary of the United States' founding fathers and a participant in the American Revolutionary War; he painted a self-portrait into Surrender of Lord Cornwallis.
The Capitol also houses the National Statuary Hall Collection, comprising two statues donated by each of the fifty states to honor persons notable in their histories. One of the most notable statues in the National Statuary Hall is a bronze statue of King Kamehameha donated by the state of Hawaii upon its accession to the union in 1959. The statue's extraordinary weight of 15,000 pounds (6,800 kg) raised concerns that it might come crashing through the floor, so it was moved to Emancipation Hall of the new Capitol Visitor Center. The 100th, and last statue for the collection, that of Po'pay from the state of New Mexico, was added on September 22, 2005. It was the first statue moved into the Emancipation Hall.
The Library of Congress (LOC) is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the de facto national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The Library of Congress claims to be the largest library in the world. Its "collections are universal, not limited by subject, format, or national boundary, and include research materials from all parts of the world and in more than 450 languages." The collections of the Library of Congress include more than 32 million catalogued books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 61 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America, including the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible (originating from the St. Blaise Abbey, Black Forest) (one of only three perfect vellum copies known to exist); over 1 million U.S. government publications; 1 million issues of world newspapers spanning the past three centuries; 33,000 bound newspaper volumes; 500,000 microfilm reels; over 6,000 titles in all, totaling more than 120,000 issues comic book titles; films; 5.3 million maps; 6 million works of sheet music; 3 million sound recordings; more than 14.7 million prints and photographic images including fine and popular art pieces and architectural drawings; the Betts Stradivarius; and the Cassavetti Stradivarius.
Congress is the legislative branch of the federal government that represents the American people and enacts national laws. It shares power with the executive branch led by the President and the judiciary with the Supreme Court of the United States as the highest body. Among the three branches of government, Congress is the only department directly elected by the people. Under the constitutional system of checks and balances, federal powers are both shared and divided among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government, as well as between the two houses of Congress.
The U.S. Capitol has the country's most important public events, from solemn mourning ceremonies to the exciting July 4th Independence Day concert. In the central hall, silent mourners pay tribute to the late president and others who rest under the solemn dome. The inauguration of the President was held on the west side balcony of the Capitol, and the Congressional Gold Medal was also presented to prominent individuals here. At the foot of the Capitol is where the country holds the most publicly influenced events. From the one-person speaker to the large-scale demonstration crowd, people came here to let others share their opinions.
- The U.S. Capitol is home to the U.S. Congress and its two legislative bodies, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Through films, exhibits, and tours, you will learn about how the Congress works, how this magnificent building was built, and how citizens can participate in this extraordinary experiment called representative democracy.
- Except for main rooms, we found some special rooms that are very interesting, with things such as S-213, H-144, S-211, S-127, S-128, S-216. Room S-213 is the Senate Reception Room, where senators meet their constituents. The ceiling frescoes depict figures representing the virtues of Temperance, Strength, Prudence, and Justice as well as War, Liberty, Peace, and Plenty. On the upper walls are trompe l’oeil marble maidens and cherubs; Room S-211, now named the Lyndon B. Johnson Room, was intended to be the Senate Library but was first used by the Senate Post Office. Brumidi’s allegorical figures represent Geography, History, Telegraph, and Physics painted in true fresco. Marine themes in the elaborate Pompeiianstyle murals in room; Room S-216, was used by presidents to sign legislation and is now used primarily by senators for ceremonial events. Brumidi’s designs include illusionistic moldings and medallions, state seals, and frescoed allegorical and historical figures.etc.
- Visitors have direct access from the Capitol Visitor Center to the historic Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, one of the nation’s great treasures, via the Library of Congress Tunnel. This place is so amazing which has extremely high in the artistic value.
* Constantino Brumidi (1805–1880), is primarily known for the murals he painted in the United States Capitol over a 25-year period. His artistic vision was based on the wall paintings of ancient Rome and Pompeii and on the classical revivals that occurred in the Italian Renaissance, the Baroque period, and the early 19th century. Born in Rome, Brumidi was trained at the Academy of St. Luke in the full range of painting mediums, including true fresco, painted in sections on fresh plaster, and sculpture. He achieved mastery of the human figure and learned how to create the appearance of three-dimensional forms on a flat surface, an effect called trompe l’oeil or fool-the-eye. He painted murals for popes and princes and was considered one of the city’s best artists. Caught up in the short-lived Roman republican revolution, he was imprisoned and sentenced to many years in prison, but was pardoned by the Pope with the understanding that he would be leaving for America, where he was already promised a church commission. Arriving in New York in September 1852, he immediately applied for citizenship, which was granted in 1857. Over the years, the majority of his work outside the Capitol was for cathedrals and churches in Mexico City; New York; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; and Havana. Beginning in 1855, Brumidi painted murals in the Capitol under the direction of Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, superintendent of construction of the Capitol extensions and dome, which was designed by Thomas U. Walter. Brumidi worked intensively at the Capitol through 1860. He designed and executed murals for the Hall of the House of Representatives, office and committee spaces in the House and Senate extensions, and the Senate first-floor corridors. In murals throughout the building Brumidi combined classical and allegorical subjects with portraits and scenes from American history and tributes to American values and inventions. His designs often included trompe l’oeil painting that looks like carved stone, marble, or brocade. Many areas were enhanced with gilding, gilded mirrors, and imitation marble called scagliola.
* By OGP Business Reporters (The source comes from the U.S. Capitol) / Members Contribute File Photos
For more information, visit OGP Collectors' News