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Genius of America Pediment
East central entrance of the U.S. Capitol
The sculptural pediment over the east central entrance of the U.S. Capitol is called Genius of America. The entire pediment is 81 feet 6 inches in length and the figures are 9 feet high.
The central figure represents America, who rests her right arm on a shield inscribed "USA"; the shield is supported by an altar bearing the inscription "July 4, 1776." America points to Justice, who lifts scales in her left hand and in her right hand holds a scroll inscribed "Constitution, 17 September 1787." To America's left are an Eagle and the figure of Hope, who rests her arm on an anchor.
Italian sculptor Luigi Persico's original design for the sculpture included figures of Peace, Plenty, and Hercules; these were replaced at the suggestion of President John Quincy Adams with the figure of Hope. Adams wished the design to "represent the American Union founded on the Declaration of Independence and consummated by the organization of the general government under the Federal Constitution, supported by Justice in the past, and relying upon Hope in Providence for the future."
Persico created the original sandstone figures in 1825-1828. When the Capitol's east central front was extended in 1958-1962, the badly deteriorated figures were removed and restored and plaster models were made of them. From these models the reproductions seen today on the pediment were carved in Georgia White marble by Bruno Mankowski.
The plaster models are displayed in the basement rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building, on the subway level. The original sandstone figures are in storage.