Stewards of the iconic buildings and grounds of Capitol Hill since 1793.

Featured

Old Senate Chamber designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, this room was home to the U.S. Senate from 1819 until 1859 and later to the U.S. Supreme Court from 1860-1935.
Located north of the Capitol Rotunda is the richly decorated Old Senate...

Featured

A view of the Capitol Visitor Center lit up at night
The Office of Congressional Accessibility Services (OCAS) provides a variety...

Featured

AOC Gardener at the U.S. Botanic Gardener handling some orchids
Information about working for the Architect of the Capitol:

Featured

Ginseng, the Divine Root.
Learn about ginseng from author David A. Taylor on September 26 at noon.

Burial of DeSoto

Burial of DeSoto frieze
Constantino Brumidi
Artist

Frieze of American History
Rotunda
U.S. Capitol

Overview 

Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto died of a fever while searching for gold in Florida and the territory north of the Gulf of Mexico. To protect his body from enemies, his men buried him at night in the Mississippi River, which he had been the first European to discover. (1542)

The frieze in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol contains a painted panorama depicting significant events in American history. Thomas U. Walter's 1859 cross-section drawing of the new dome (constructed 1855-1863) shows a recessed belt atop the Rotunda walls with relief sculpture. Eventually it was painted in true fresco, a difficult and exacting technique in which the pigments are applied directly onto wet plaster. As the plaster cures the colors become part of the wall. Consequently, each section of plaster must be painted the day it is laid. The frieze is painted in grisaille, a monochrome of whites and browns that resembles sculpture. It measures 8 feet 4 inches in height and approximately 300 feet in circumference. It starts 58 feet above the floor.

The frieze is the work of three artists, Constantino Brumidi, Filippo Costaggini and Allyn Cox. It was designed by Brumidi, an Italian artist who studied in Rome before emigrating to America. Brumidi created a sketch for the Rotunda frieze in 1859 but was not authorized to begin work until 1877.

Last Updated: October 10, 2014