The 19 Panels
The sequence of scenes begins over the west door and moves clockwise around the Rotunda
Baptism of Pocahontas
This painting depicts the ceremony in which Pocahontas, daughter of the influential Algonkian chief Powhatan, was baptized and given the name Rebecca in an Anglican church. It took place in 1613 or 1614 in the colony at Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement on the North American continent. Pocahontas is thought to be the earliest native convert to Christianity in the English colonies; this ceremony and her subsequent marriage to John Rolfe helped to establish peaceful relations between the colonists and the Tidewater tribes.
America and History
The first panel contains the only allegorical figures in the frieze. America, wearing a liberty cap, stands in the center with her spear and shield. To her right sits an Indian maiden with a bow and arrows, representing the untamed American continent. Also at America's feet is a female figure representing History, who holds a stone tablet to record events as they occur. An American eagle perches on a fasces (a bundle of rods symbolizing the authority of government).
The Columbus Doors
Designed by American sculptor Randolph Rogers, each scene depicting the life of Christopher Columbus is finely modeled. The doors were installed in 1863 and moved to their present location in 1961 following the extension of the East Front of the Capitol.
The bronze doors are curved, with a semicircular tympanum above two valves that are divided into four panels each. Techniques of Renaissance perspective and different levels of relief give each scene a sense of depth.
Conflict of Daniel Boone and the Indians, 1773, Relief Sculpture
Preservation of Captain Smith by Pocahontas, 1606, Relief Sculpture
Chief Standing Bear
Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe was the central figure of an 1879 court case that established that Native Americans are "persons" under the law and are entitled to the same rights as anyone else in the nation.
Landing of Columbus
This painting depicts Christopher Columbus and members of his crew on a beach in the West Indies, newly landed from his flagship Santa Maria on October 12, 1492. The island landing was the first landfall of their expedition to find a westward route from Europe to China, Japan and perhaps unknown lands. American neoclassicist painter John Vanderlyn (1775-1852) was commissioned by Congress in June 1836 to paint the Landing of Columbus for the Capitol Rotunda. It was installed in the Rotunda by early January 1847.
Discovery of the Mississippi by De Soto
William Henry Powell's dramatic and brilliantly colored canvas was the last of the eight large historical paintings in the Rotunda commissioned by the Congress. It shows Spanish conquistador and explorer Hernando De Soto (1500–1542), riding a white horse and dressed in Renaissance finery, arriving at the Mississippi River at a point below Natchez on May 8, 1541. De Soto was the first European documented to have seen the river.