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The Old Supreme Court Chamber is the first room constructed for the use of the nation's highest judiciary body and was used by the Court from 1810 until 1860. Built by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, it was a significant architectural achievement, for the size and structure of its vaulted, semicircular ceiling were virtually unprecedented in the United States.
The Old Supreme Court Chamber is the first room constructed for the use of the...

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View of the U.S. Capitol Building from above at dusk
In order to ensure the safety of visitors and staff and to preserve the...

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Stewardship
The Architect of the Capitol is committed to the preservation and stewardship...

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Small Business Industry Day at AOC
The Architect of the Capitol is hosting a Small Business Day on Tuesday,...

Cortez and Montezuma at Mexican Temple

Cortez and Montezuma at Mexican Temple frieze
Constantino Brumidi
Artist

Frieze of American History
Rotunda
U.S. Capitol

Overview 

The Spaniard Hernando Cortez, conqueror of Mexico, enters the Aztec temple in 1519. He is welcomed by Emperor Montezuma II, who thought Cortez was a god. The calendar stone and idols are based on sketches that artist Constantino Brumidi made in Mexico City. (1520)

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