Artistic Improvements

On the outside, the Capitol remained largely unchanged during this period. Inside, however, various artistic projects were undertaken to improve the Capitol's interior. In the rotunda, Constantino Brumidi began painting the 300-foot-long frieze in 1878 with scenes from American history. Sculpture was originally intended for the frieze, but Brumidi was able to achieve a similar effect with paint.

After the death of Vice President Henry Wilson in 1875, the Senate commissioned a bust of its deceased presiding officer (the vice president is President of the Senate), displaying it in the room where Wilson had died. This launched a program to commission busts of all former vice presidents for the Senate wing. The House, in a similar tribute to its history, began commissioning oil portraits of former Speakers in 1911.

  • Statue of Abraham Lincoln, by Vinnie Ream, 1870

    When Congress commissioned this statue from Ream in 1866, she was only 18 years old.

    Architect of the Capitol

    Battle of Lexington, by Filippo Costaggini, 1881

    Constantino Brumidi designed this scene in the rotunda frieze but died before it was painted. Brumidi’s work was completed by Filippo Costaggini in 1889. A final section was designed and painted by Allyn Cox in 1952–1953.

    Photograph © 1993 Fred J. Maroon

  • Bust of Henry Wilson, by Daniel Chester French, 1886

    Wilson served as vice president of the United States from 1873 to 1875.

    Collection of the U.S. Senate

  • Portrait of J. Warren Keifer, by Charles A. Grey, 1911

    A congressman from Ohio, Keifer was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1881 to 1883.

    Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives