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The Frieze of American History in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol
The Frieze of American History in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol...

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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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Painted portrait of Dr. William Thornton
 The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is the builder and steward of America’s...

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CVC Visitor Guide Julie Butler leads a group of visitors through National Statuary Hall.
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Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence frieze
Filippo Costaggini
Artist

Frieze of American History
Rotunda
U.S. Capitol

Overview 

This idealized depiction shows the principal authors of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, reading the document to colonists. (1776)

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