Featured

The painting of the Surrender of Lord Cornwallis  by John Trumbull.
The painting Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull is on display in the...

Featured

Featured

Painted Portrait of Benjamin Henry Latrobe
Benjamin Henry Latrobe was hired by President Jefferson in 1803 to fill the...

Featured

Sheep on the White House lawn, taken between 1916-1919. Image courtesy Library of Congress
The Capitol Grounds have long been a haven for wildlife, with residents ranging...

Explore Capitol Hill

William Penn and the Indians

Overview 

William Penn is shown at center with the Delaware Indians at the time of the Treaty of Shackamaxon. This treaty formalized the purchase of land in Pennsylvania and cemented an amicable relationship between the Quakers and the Indians for almost a hundred years. This scene was that last one on which Constantino Brumidi worked.

Constantino Brumidi
Artist

Frieze of American History
Rotunda
U.S. Capitol

William Penn and the Indians

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