The Capitol : Sculptural Decoration
THE Capitol, considered as an architectural object, ranks amongst the noblest buildings in the world. From its commanding situation on Capitol Hill, ninety-seven feet above the river level, it overlooks the amphitheatre of the Potomac, and is the dominant feature of the landscape for miles around. Its majestic proportions, its dignity, its grace and beauty of design, its spacious setting, touch and satisfy the aesthetic sense; while its history, as the pivot about which the fortunes of the nation have, for more than a century, revolved, gives it a special and intimate appeal, to which every heart responds. Its growth and development, its decorations, within and without, so faithfully and frankly reflect the spirit of the times which they mark, the degrees of culture which they typify, for better or for worse, that the building becomes an eloquent document upon the history of our post-revolutionary civilization.
The building faces east, for in that quarter the projectors assumed that the city would grow.' But the development of Washington has been toward the west, and it is from that direction that the Capitol is usually entered. From the main western entrance to the grounds, near the Peace Monument, the approach leads across gently rising lawns to flights of steps, which give ascent to the upper terrace or open court, extending the entire length of the west front, and around the north and south ends. Here a beautiful view of the city and its encircling hills is afforded — a view particularly significant at sunset, when, the activities of the city subsided, the solitary spectator may feel that the world is his. At this hour these long avenues of sycamores, that radiate from the centre, take on a ghostly semblance, and a delicious enchantment seems to reanimate those quiet halls, the spectral rotunda reechoing the fervid footsteps of our fore-fathers.
The Capitol and President's House were built according to plans submitted in a general competition. Thomas Johnson, David Stuart, and Daniel Carroll were appointed commissioners in charge of laying out the Federal city. One of their first duties was to obtain plans for the new buildings, and upon the recommendation of President Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, they decided to announce a public competition for the two principal structures. To this end an advertisement, prepared by the Commission, and edited by Washington and Jefferson, appeared in the Philadelphia papers and others, for what was, probably, the first architectural competition inaugurated in this country. It read as follows :
" A Premium of a lot in the city, to be designated by impartial judges, and $500, or a medal of that value, at the option of the party, will be given, by the Commissioners of the Federal Buildings, to persons who, before the 15th day of July, 1792, shall produce the most approved plan, if adopted by them, for a Capitol to be erected in the city; and $250, or a medal, for the plan deemed next in merit to the one they shall adopt ; the building to be of brick and to contain the following compartments, to wit :
A room for Representatives to contain 300 persons each.
A conference room
A lobby or antechamber to the latter.
A Senate room of 1200 square feet of area.
An antechamber and lobby to the latter.
Twelve rooms, of 600 square feet area each, for committee rooms and clerks, to be of half the elevation of the former.
These rooms to be of full elevation.
Drawings will be expected of the ground plots, elevations of each front, and sections through the building in such directions as may be necessary to explain the material, structure, and an estimate of the cubic feet of the brick work composing the whole mass of the wall.
(Signed) DD. STUART,
DAN'L CARROLL, Commissioners. March 14, 1792."
In response to this advertisement plans were received from architects and amateurs, and with few exceptions were quite impossible. James Hoban's design for the President's House was selected without hesitation. But no one sent satisfactory drawings for the Capitol. Washington took the keenest interest in the selection of the design, and the decision seems to have rested almost entirely with him.
In October, 1792, Dr. William Thornton, of the Island of Tortola, in the West Indies, wrote, re-questing permission to submit drawings, and his design was ultimately accepted. Thomas Jefferson said of it: " Thornton's plan has captured the eyes and the judgment of all. It is simple, noble, beautiful, excellently arranged, and moderate in size. . . . Among its admirers none are more decided than he (Washington) whose decision is most important."
The whole complex story of the building of the Capitol, with its numerous vicissitudes, may be followed, in all its detail, in that massive and admirable work " The History of the United States Capitol," by Glenn Brown, an exhaustive compilation of facts and statistics concerning every department of the building since its inception till 1902, the date of publication.
When Thornton retired from the post of architect of the Capitol, the north wing was completed and the foundations for the central rotunda and dome were in place, while the foundation and basement story of the south wing were partially built. On Thornton's retirement, in 1803, Benjamin Henry Latrobe took charge as architect, and under Latrobe the decoration and ornamentation of the building were commenced.
The elaboration of the architect's plans by painting and sculpture had been provided for since the beginning of the work. Thornton indicated sculpture on his earliest drawings, and advocated finishing, or decorating, the interior of the building with foreign marbles. Such treatment was beyond the pecuniary resources of the government at the period, but, as the wings neared completion, under Latrobe, we find that he sought assistance of sculptors to do the decorative carving, and to model the statuary which he thought appropriate.
As the work on the House advanced, Latrobe sent to Italy for sculptors, securing the services of Giuseppe Franzoni and Giovanni Andrei, who arrived March 3, 1806. The first work of Franzoni was the eagle on the frieze of the House of Representatives. In August, 1807, a model of the statue of Liberty, by Franzoni, was placed between two columns in the colonnade, over the speaker's chair. Andrei's first work was on the capitals of the columns in the House of Representatives. All this work was destroyed when the Capitol was burned, by the British, in 1814.
The Hall of Representatives was considered, in its completion, a very handsome room. The British officer who burned it said that " it was a pity to burn anything so beautiful." Jefferson, in a letter to Latrobe, said : " The Representative Chamber will remain a durable monument to your talents as an architect."
Latrobe designed it after a Greek theatre. On the north side it has a colonnade of Potomac marble with white capitals; and a screen of similar columns, on the south side, supports a noble arch. The domed ceiling, decorated after that of the Roman Pantheon, springs fifty-seven feet to a cupola, by which the room is lighted.
When work was resumed after the war and repairs ,were undertaken Andrei was sent to Italy, in August, 1815, to secure capitals for the Halls of Congress, and was authorized to engage sculptors proficient in modelling figures. Andrei probably at that time engaged Francisco Iardella and Carlo Franzoni, who came over in 1816, the latter being a brother and the former a cousin of Giuseppe Franzoni.
The old Hall of Representatives,) as it now stands, contains some interesting souvenirs of this early epoch. The model for the clock, placed above the door leading to the rotunda, and opposite the speaker's desk, in accordance with Latrobe's design, was the work of Giuseppe Franzoni. The design is of History with a recording tablet, borne in the winged car of Time, its wheel passing over a globe circled by the signs of the zodiac. The exposed wheel of the car forms the face of the clock. The classic figure is said to have been modelled from Franzoni's daughter. The sculptor died in 1816, before the clock was completed, and the work was finished by Francisco Iardella, who married his widow.
The simple elegance and crisp workmanship of this clock, as ,well as the skilful elaboration of all its details, are reminiscent of the sculpture of the French Renaissance. There is something very beautiful about it, in its relation to the harmonious room.
The quaint and highly decorative eagle on the frieze of the south colonnade, in this room, was made by another Italian sculptor, Valaperti, a man of some prominence in his profession, who came over to this country in 1823 or 1824. This work was ridiculed to such an extent, owing to its conventionalized treatment, that the author was supposed to have drowned himself, in chagrin. He disappeared, at all events, and the eagle is his unique work in America.
Above the eagle of Valaperti, resting upon the cornice of the colonnade, in the centre of the arch, is a plaster statue of Liberty, by Enrico Causici, the most satisfactory piece of work left by him. He died before putting the group in marble.
This room was the Hall of Representatives, and was the forum of the debates by Webster and Clay, Adams, Calhoun, and others, whose names are indelibly associated with the history of Congress. A plate set in the marble floor, southwest of the centre, marks the spot where John Quincy Adams fell, stricken with paralysis, during a session of the House. In the room of the clerk of the House, opening off the Hall, is a memorial bust with this inscription : " John Quincy Adams, who, after fifty years of public service, the last sixteen in yon-der Hall, was summoned thence to die in this room, 23 February, 1848."
The group of figures in high relief on the north side of the old Supreme Court room, facing what was formerly the judge's bench; was probably done by the Franzonis. The group consists of justice in the centre with a winged figure on the right, calling her attention to the Constitution, a youth presumably typifying the young nation; and on the left an eagle guarding the laws.
As the Capitol neared completion, many artists were needed, and again Italy was drawn upon. In 1823 Enrico Causici and Antonio Capellano of Italy, and Nicholas Gevelot, a Frenchman, commenced work. Capellano and Causici were pupils of Canova. They made the four panels, with figures in low relief, over the principal entrance door-ways in the rotunda.
Over the west entrance is represented the " Preservation of Captain John Smith, by Pocahontas," by Capellano ; over the east entrance, the " Landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock," by Causici, who made also the " Conflict between Daniel Boone and the Indians ; " " Penn's Treaty with the Indians," over the north door, is by the Frenchman, Gevelot.
In the treatment of these groups, the sculptors hardly sized up to the requirements of the situation, and we feel their work very much hampered by the traditions upon which they had been trained. The figures and grouping are treated conventionally in an effort to make them part of the decorative scheme of the rotunda.
The last of the Italians to work upon the sculpture of the Capitol was Luigi Persico, who came to this country from Naples, in 1826, and secured commissions under the administration of John Quincy Adams, to model most of the statuary placed upon the exterior of the rotunda portico. He made the pediment, the two figures of Peace and War, which stand in the niches on the eastern portico, on each side of the entrance door to the rotunda, and a group for one of the cheek blocks before the colonnade.
Persico's first work upon the Capitol was the decoration of the pediment of its eastern front, upon which he was employed by the government, at a salary of $1,500 a year, and created that curiously bare and archaic high relief which protrudes upon the centre of the triangular space. The group of figures includes America, in the centre, her right arm resting on a shield, supported by an altar or pedestal, bearing the inscription, " July 4, 1776." Her left hand points to Justice, who, with unveiled face, is viewing the scales, while her right hand presents an open scroll, inscribed : " Constitution, September 17, 1787 " the date of the signing of the Federal charter. On the left of the principal figure is the eagle and a figure of Hope, resting on her anchor, with the face and right hand uplifted — the whole intended to convey that while we cultivate justice, we may hope for success.
The group for the pediment was designed by John Quincy Adams himself, after some thirty-six designs had been reviewed and rejected as unsuitable decoration for a legislative building. " He disclaimed all wish to exhibit triumphal cars and emblems of victory, and all allusion to heathen mythology, and thought that the duties of the nation, or of the legislators, should be impressed in an obvious and intelligible manner."
Hazleton's " National Capitol " notes that the cost of this work to the government, though the design of the President was gratuitous, was $15,000. Soon after its completion, a part of the arm of the figure of justice, together with the Constitution, fell, from the action of frost, to the steps of the portico, and was shattered into fragments. The material is Virginia sandstone.
The group was finished just before the meeting of Congress in 1828. In his diary Adams makes the following entry for June 30 of that year:
" Overtaken by a storm near the Capitol, and took shelter under one of the arches. Found Mr. Persico, the Italian sculptor, there, and went up to view his work at the pediment, of which I furnished him the design. He is now upon the last figure, Hope; and thus far his execution is very satisfactory. His eagle had been indifferent in drawing; better, but not good, in the model. In the work itself, it is a pouncing bird. He called my attention to the anchor; he had, therefore, gone to Commodore Pingey and taken for his model a true anchor of a ship of war; 'and so now,' he said, whenever a sailor looks at this pediment he will say, " How exact the anchor is ! " ' He said he would paint the scales in the hand of Justice white, to prevent them from taking the rain, making verdigris, and dropping it upon the stone figures."
The last official act of the younger Adams, as president, was his contract with Persico for the execution of the two statues for the east front of the Capitol, authorized by the appropriation bill of March 3, 1829. Each of them cost $12,000. They were completed in 1833 and placed in the niches they now occupy in 1837.
Mars, or War, to the left of the central bronze doors is garbed in Roman mail, with sword and shield. Ceres, or Peace, on the right, is, of course, a female figure, bearing the fruitful olive branch and ripe cluster of grapes, insignias of peace.
The two groups of statuary which were intended as capping for the blocking-courses, on the eastern central portico, were ordered from Luigi Persico and Horatio Greenough, after a wordy senatorial debate. Persico had been brought forward by James Buchanan, then a United States senator from Pennsylvania, and who for a long time had been a citizen of Lancaster, the first stopping place of Persico in this country, in 1819. His proposition was that the Italian sculptor should be awarded the commission for both groups and so keen was he in Persico's behalf that he secured thirty-eight of his colleagues in the Senate to join him in recommending this artist to President Jackson's favour. Other interests intervened, however, and for nearly a year the issue was doubtful. Persico, apprehensive of losing both statues, writes at one time that he would be quite content to accept the commission for one group, and let the other be under-taken by Thorwaldsen, the great Dane, then rising into prominence. Finally he writes exultingly, under the date of March 31, 1837, that the president had ordered the secretary of state to con-tract with him for the Columbus group; and from Philadelphia, April Io, 1837, he writes Mr. Buchanan of his intention to leave for Italy at the end of the month to begin the work.
The group was placed where it now stands in 1846. The central figure is that of Columbus triumphantly holding aloft in his hand the globe. By his side cowers an Indian girl, awed by the sight of the white man. The artist is said to have copied the armour from that still preserved in Genoa, and the head and face were taken from an authentic portrait.
" It is somewhat to the nation's discredit that time and exposure, neglect and vandalism, after long years, have mutilated, in a degree, the beauty of Persico's work. On close inspection Ceres presents a rueful aspect — her eyelids chipped, both hands broken off, and her luscious grapes crushed and wineless at her feet. The blade of the short sword, in the hand of the God of War, is broken, and he grasps only the hilt, while the missing tip of his marble nose mars his Roman beauty. The material of the Columbus group seems to have been too delicate to stand all the ravages of exposure, and the garment that swathes the limbs of the Indian girl has a moth-eaten look. Viewed from below, the elaborate Adams-Persico pediment seems to be intact; the arm of Justice apparently has been mended with a skill that should satisfy the most exacting censor of the courts."
The first American sculptor to work for the Capitol was Horatio Greenough (1805-1852), of Boston, Massachusetts. Congress gave him a commission, in 1832, for the ill-fated statue of Washing-ton, which, after a career of unusual vicissitude, has been relegated to the obscurity of the old Smithsonian building.
" The history of Greenough's 'Washington' is one of bitter disappointments, and it ended so far as the artist was concerned — in tragedy. This final blow was not the rejection nor the destruction of the work, but its sentence to stand forever in the pillory of public ridicule. It was and is worthy of a better fate. The city of Washington has many worse figures which escape censure through their mediocrity. Few indeed of the sculptures of the Capitol reveal so noble an intention as does this much maligned work. Greenough conceived it on a very high plane; he laboured on it for nearly eight years, and the workmanship is dignified and workmanlike, if not masterful. Of it the artist wrote in words freighted with an emotion, which to-day seems deeply pathetic : ` It is the birth of my thought. I have sacrificed to it the flower of my days and the freshness of my strength; its every lineament has been moistened by the sweat of my toil and the tears of my exile. I would not barter away its association with my name for the proudest fortune that avarice ever dreamed.' "
Greenough, true to the traditions of the classic revival in Italy, and inspired by the masterpieces of Thorwaldsen and Canova's nude " Napoleon," conceived his statue as a majestic, godlike figure, enthroned beneath the vaulted arch of the Capitol, and gilded by the filtered rays of the distant sun-light — for Congress designed the statue for the centre of the rotunda, over the crypt, that was to have contained the remains of the father of his country.
The ponderous figure reached this country in 1843, after many perils by sea and by land, and had attained the very gates of the Capitol when it was found to be too large for passage. The door-way was widened to receive it and a special foundation was prepared for it, notwithstanding which it was found that the immense mass of stone was too heavy for the floor, which trembled and settled at its approach. The statue was hastily withdrawn, and set up outside, opposite the eastern front of the building, where it remained the butt of cheap wit and cruel jest until, within the last few years, it was removed to its present retirement.
Greenough tried many times to induce Congress to make better provision for his statue. He suggested the west front of the Capitol, with its wide terrace, as a suitable site for its erection; and after it was placed in the grounds, wished a classic structure to be erected over it, which would ornament the garden and protect the marble from the weather.
That the sculptor was grievously disappointed at its ultimate location is shown by the following extract from a letter written while the question of a site was pending:
Had I been ordered to make a statue for any square or similar situation at the metropolis, I should have represented Washington on horseback and in his actual dress. I would have made my work purely an historical one. I have treated my subject poetically, and confess I should feel pain at seeing it placed in direct and flagrant contrast to every-day life. Moreover I modelled the figure without reference to exposure to rain and frost, so that there are many parts of the statue where the water would collect and soon disintegrate and rot the stone, if it did not, by freezing, split off large fragments of the drapery."
The " Washington " was the first colossal marble statue carved by an American ; " The Rescue," Greenough's group on the right hand side of the main stairway of the Capitol, was the second.
As the " Columbus " is intended to typify discovery, this group called " The Rescue," personifies Civilization or Settlement. The marble was not installed until 1854. It represents an American frontiersman in an odd, half classic costume, over-powering an Indian, while his wife crouches at one side, holding in her arms an infant. As an ensemble, the group fails in unity, the composition being split into three points of interest; the central incident, the woman and child to the left, and the large, and, as Taft says, singularly impartial dog, who watches the struggle quietly and without prejudice." Eliminating the minor groups, the central incident of the whole is well conceived and not without dramatic interest. The nude form of the Indian combines well with the draped figure which holds his antagonist in a powerful grip.
It was through the mediation of J. Fenimore Cooper, the novelist, that Greenough was allotted these commissions for the Capitol. Cooper, who was keenly interested in the recognition of American talent, and who, as we have seen, again op-posed, in the interest of Morse, the president's notion that the country contained no artists worthy to be employed upon its public monuments. It was through the influence of Charles Sumner that Thomas Crawford (1813-1857) received what was for many years " the most extensive and important commission ever given by the government to an artist."
After the engaging of Greenough, no more foreigners were employed to work upon the sculpture of the Capitol, and as soon as the extension of the building was well advanced, Thomas Crawford was awarded the contract for the figure work upon the additions. Various sculptures for the Senate portico, the bronze doors for both wings, and the statue of Liberty for the dome, were ordered in 1853 and 1854, and as early as 1855 models for the figures of Mechanics and the group Instruction, for the pediment of the east portico, were received. All the models were delivered by the year 1857, and many of the figures cut in marble before the sculptor's death, in London, in October, 1857. At the time of his death, the work was so far advanced that it could easily be given to others for completion, in bronze or marble.
Crawford's work on the Capitol includes the pediment and the figures of Justice and Freedom over the doorway of the Senate wing; the bronze doors for the north and south wings, and the figure of Freedom, the crowning feature of the dome.
The dome of the Capitol springs from a peristyle of fluted Corinthian columns above the central building, and terminates in a lantern, which is surmounted by Crawford's statue, towering over three hundred feet above the esplanade.
In the original model she wore a liberty cap, to which Jefferson Davis, secretary of war, objected, as being an emblem of emancipated slaves, while Americans were free born. He also objected to the bundle of rods she carried, symbolizing the functions of a Roman victor, and Crawford dispensed with the cap, and used a helmet, with a crest composed of an eagle's head, and an arrange-ment of feathers, suggested by the costume of the Indian tribes. Crawford named the group Armed Liberty, but its official title is Freedom.
The statue stands complete upon a tholus. The right hand rests upon a sword while the left holds an olive branch. The drapery is held in place by a brooch with a monogram, U. S., upon its face. The head is crowned with a freely treated helmet, encircled with stars. A life-size plaster model of the statue occupies a central position in the old National Museum.
The bronze statue of Freedom was cast in Clark Mills' foundry near Bladensburg, Maryland, in 1860, and the fragments were lifted one by one and put together on that aery height, to the booming of cannon and the shouts of soldiers.
Crawford gave his Freedom a simple, concentrated pose, and the rude, blocked in modelling apparent on the plaster model, comes out effectively when viewed, as intended, from a vast height. The sword and shield not only support the hands in turn, but contribute their straight lines to the architectural mass and effectiveness of the silhouette.
The fortunes of the American Indians furnish a theme which constantly recurs throughout the decorations of the Capitol. The marbles and bronzes of the rotunda portico are suggestive of the first contact of the white race with the red. The marble group in the pediment of the Senate portico is significant of what the coming of the new race was to mean for the old.
The subject contrasts the progress of civilization, in America, with the attendant decadence of the aborigine. The central figure of the group is that of America. On the right of this figure are the elements of strength on which the country re-lies — the Soldier, the Merchant, the Schoolmaster, Youth, and Mechanics, ending with a wheat sheaf and anchor, as emblems of prosperity and stability.
On the left of America are the forerunners of civilization : the Pioneer, the Hunter, the Indian Warrior, a Mother and Child, and, finally, an Indian grave. The sculpture is in full relief, made from Crawford's models in shops on the Capitol grounds, by skilled Italian artisans, and placed in 1860-64.
Crawford attempted too much and too literally. He crams the space with detached incident, held together by no unity of feeling or of idea. Of light and shade in sculpture, he was apparently ignorant; his figures though robust present lean masses to the eye ; certain accessories, like the stump, the reeds, the rising sun, are almost ludicrous. Yet the pediment roused its share of contemporary admiration. Tuckerman tells us that the English sculptor, Gibson, proposed, at a meeting of the artists at Rome called to pay a last tribute to Craw-ford's memory, that the fragment representing the Indian chief should be cast in bronze and set up as a permanent memorial of the sculptor's national fame, in one of the squares of the Eternal City.
Though this was not accomplished, a replica of the figure is preserved in the collection of the Historical Society of New York.
Crawford designed the bronze doors for both wings of the Capitol. Those for the entrance to the Senate vestibule, he completed himself ; those for the portico of the Hall of Representatives were executed by William H. Rinehart, and were not placed until after 1900. The scheme for the two doors is in a general way very similar. Each leaf is divided into four panels and a medallion. The top of each leaf is treated with a wreath, which in the Senate door encircles a star.
The subjects chosen by the sculptor for the Senate doors are illustrations of Revolutionary and Federal history. The right hand door commemorates War and its terrors, and the left, Peace and its blessings. The sculptural panels on the north leaf, beginning at the top, depict " The Death of Warren at Bunker Hill," " General Washington rebuking Lee at the Battle of Monmouth," and " Alexander Hamilton storming the Redout at Yorktown ; " while the medallion shows the conflict between a Hessian soldier and a farmer. The panels on the south leaf represent " The Laying of the Corner Stone of the Capitol," " Washington taking the Oath of Office," " Washington passing through New Jersey on his way to be Inaugurated," and, in the medallion, Peace and Agriculture.
The doors for the House Wing contain scenes representing important events in the Indian and Revolutionary wars and civil events in history.
Randolph Rogers (1825-1892) made the bronze doors for the eastern entrance of the rotunda, and this is his one contribution to the sculpture of the Capitol. He and Crawford were engaged upon the doors at about the same time, but the death of the latter arrested the work upon his, and they were not hung until some years after the Rogers doors were in place. Both sculptors were bred to their art in Rome, subject all their lives to Italian influences. They attacked their problem where it presented least resistance, frankly adapting the general plan of the famous Ghiberti Gates of the FIorentine Baptistry, without understanding their real merit — their symmetry, their wealth of sculptural colour, their charm of handling, the rhythm of their grouped figures. Of the two, Crawford's design possesses more spontaneity and vigour than does Rogers' effort; while Rogers shows himself a better if more commonplace workman.
" Among the famous examples of bronze doors — the Ghiberti Gates, the Pisano portal, the Rodin ` Inferno ' — there is no question, from a decorative standpoint, of the humble rank of the American contributions. . . . Ghiberti's doors have been a mine of jewels for all the artists who have followed. Michael Angelo did not disdain to borrow from them. Each of those tiny statues is potentially a great statue. As has been said by the author of Italian Sculpture of the Renaissance: ` So gracefully posed are they, so elegantly draped, so exquisitely wrought, that one longs to take them in one's hands, to finger them, examine each perfect little whole on all sides.' It may be safely ventured that no one has ever desired to handle the Washington bronzes for the mere sensuous pleasure of touch. The sculptors of the Capitol have succeeded in eliminating all charm of flowing forms and of delicate gradations. Every figure is sharp cut, and strikes the inexorable background with a bump. Over all is the harsh finish of the foundry, instead of the loving caress of the sculptor's hand."
The Rogers doors are set in a deep frame which is arched at the top. The faces of the frame are ornamented with an egg and dart and astragal moulding, setting off a shallow and narrow, panel, in which is placed a low relief, which represents a series of groups of weapons, flowers, fruits, and Implements, more or less conventionalized, and broken at the apex of the arch by a round panel, in which is placed a bust of Columbus. The inside jambs have as decoration a raised moulding resembling a cord or band plaited and crossed. The doors are surmounted by a lunette, at the top of which is an eagle perched upon the folds of two national flags. The lunette contains the largest of the reliefs, which represents the landing of Columbus and the raising of the Spanish flag upon the soil of the newly discovered world.
This scene is the culminating point of the life of the explorer, whose story is depicted in the series of eight panels forming the body of the doors. This series begins with the lowest panel, at the left hand of the spectator. In the order of the series the scenes are as follows : Columbus presents the plan of his proposed expedition before a company of learned monks, in the monastery of Saint Stephen at Salamanca; Columbus receives hospitality at the convent of Saint Maria de la Rabida, near Palos, and enlists in his cause the prior Perez, the former confessor of Queen Isabella; Columbus receives his commission as admiral from the hands of Ferdinand and Isabella, at Granada; the departure of the fleet from Palos, for the first voyage; voyages among the islands of the New World, and capture of the natives ; triumphant return of Columbus and honours at Barcelona; arrival of Columbus, in chains, at Cadiz, after the third voyage, and in consequence of malicious reports sent to the court by his enemies; the death of Columbus.
The stiles, on each side of the panels, are divided by small niches, in which are placed sixteen statuettes representing the personages who were connected with the early history of the New World : the sovereigns — Alexander VI of Rome, Ferdinand and Isabe'llla of Spain, Charles VIII of France, John II of Portugal, Henry VII of England; the friends and patrons of Columbus — Cardinal Mendoza, Lady Beatriz de Bobadilla, Juan Perez de Marchena, prior of La Rabida; the companions of the discoverer and conquerors of the New World Pinzon, captain of thei " Pinta," Bartholomew Columbus, Ojeda, Vespucci, Cortez, Balboa, and Pizarro. The bronze frame contains emblematic figures of Asia, Europe, America, and Africa.
The bronze doors for the west entrance of the Capitol were made by Louis Amateis, professor of the Columbian University, of Washington, D. C. The actual doors, which have never been placed, are deposited in the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The ensemble presents a feebler variation upon the Ghibertian theme, and is intended to picture, in its nine panels, statuettes, and medallions, the " Apotheosis of America."
The Senators' private bronze stairways, which were erected during the construction of the building, are well worthy to be classified with the sculpture of the Capitol. These stairways were designed by T. U. Walker, the fourth architect of the Capitol, and modelled by Baudin. The design is a charming one, composed of cupids and eagles introduced in an elaborate scroll motive. The modelling is rich and varied in colour.
The House of Representatives contains one interesting sculptural relic. It is the clock attached to the middle of the gallery, opposite the speaker's desk. The dial is surrounded by a wreath of fruits, and surmounted by an eagle and a shield, while at the sides stand figures of an Indian and a Pioneer. This is the work of William H. Rine-hart (1825-1874), and was done when he re-turned to this country, after a sojourn in Rome, in 1857.
Rinehart identified himself with Baltimore, which city preserves a very complete record of his work. He immortalized his name by the founding of a scholarship for the education of American sculptors.
The decoration of the east portico of the House was unprovided for until 1909, when Congress commissioned Paul Wayland Bartlett to make the group of sculpture for the pediment. The pre- liminary design showed a central figure of Peace, surrounded by groups of figures symbolic of the industries. The work is being done by Mr. Bartlett in his Paris studio, and promises a rich achievement.
( Originally Published 1912 )
The Art Treasures of Washington:
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