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Members of the House of Representatives sit in unassigned armchairs arranged in a semicircle on tiered platforms that face the Speaker's rostrum. Behind the rostrum is a frontispiece with Ionic columns made of black Italian marble with white Alabama marble capitals. An American flag occupies the center and is flanked by two bronze faces. The chamber's lower walls are walnut paneled with intervening light grey Genevieve Sheldorado marble pilasters. A gallery for visitors and the press corps rings the chamber
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Snapshot of a crowd of people on a guided tour through the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol
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Surrender of Cornwallis

Surrender of Cornwallis
Filippo Costaggini
Artist

Frieze of American History
Rotunda
U.S. Capitol

Overview 

General George Washington, on horseback, receives the sword of surrender from Major General O'Hare, who represented Lord Cornwallis after his defeat at Yorktown, the last battle of the American Revolution. (1781)

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