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

Featured

Painting depicting the Pilgrims on the deck of the ship Speedwell
This painting depicts the Pilgrims on the deck of the ship Speedwell on July...

Featured

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

Featured

Photo of House Pediment Damage
Fiscal Year 2015 Appropriations

Featured

House Office Buildings laborers like Keith Quick carefully move thousands of boxes and other items among member storerooms every election year.
The House Office Buildings laborers continuously improve service delivery and...

Captain Smith and Pocahontas

Captain Smith and Pocahontas frieze
Constantino Brumidi
Artist

Frieze of American History
Rotunda
U.S. Capitol

Overview 

Pocahontas saves Captain John Smith, one of the founders of Jamestown, Virginia, from being clubbed to death. Her father, Chief Powhatan, is seated at the left. This scene is the first showing English settlement. (1607)

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