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

Featured

The sun shining on the Ionic Columns on the Longworth House Office Building.
The Ionic column is typically identified by its capital, which includes large...

Featured

Snapshot of a crowd of people on a guided tour through the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol
Official Tours of the U.S. Capitol Building are offered Monday through...

Featured

Publications
The Architect of the Capitol annually publishes a wide variety of publications...

Featured

East Front Plaza Repairs
AOC is making repairs to expansion joints on the East Front Plaza of the...

Pizarro Going to Peru

Pizarro Going to Peru
Constantino Brumidi
Artist

Frieze of American History
Rotunda
U.S. Capitol

Overview 

The Spanish conqueror of Peru, Francisco Pizarro, leading his horse, pushes through the jungle searching for El Dorado, the mythical land of gold. Pizarro eventually captured the Inca capital, Cuzco. (1533)

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: September 30, 2013