Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Capitol Idea, Sir...

Some of diaristwoman's relatives where over from the old country (husband had business meetings all week) so we met up with the wife and kids for a spot of site-seeing.  Those of us who live in the Washington, DC suburbs know the drill:  in springtime take them to see the cherry blossoms and at other times to see the monuments, museums and well known buildings such as the the Capitol and White House.  It's a good thing that friends and relatives blow into town every now and then because, although we live close by, we almost never avail ourselves to the opportunity of going and partaking of what DC has to offer.  It's always there and we keep telling ourselves we'll go and see it soon, but "soon" never seems to come around.  If it wasn't for visiting relatives I'd never generate enough gumption to see anything at all!  Your diarist, for example, had never been to the Capitol but that's what the relatives wanted to see.    So let's take a look at what the old "tourist" saw that day.

The Capitol from the visitor's center entrance side.  It was a gorgeous mid-October day with day-time high temps in the low 70s and just enough breeze to blow the stink off.  Perfect for schlepping around DC on foot.

Let's go through security and dive into the belly of the beast.

You can take pictures of anything except the security officers.  You do need a ticket for the group tours.  Those are free and smart tourists (like the ever well-organized diaristwoman) will go on-line the day before and book tickets for their party here.  Our tour doesn't start for a few minutes so let's wander around--but stay close and DON'T get lost.

The original plaster model of Freedom by sculptor Thomas Crawford.  This model was used to make the mold for the final 19 1/2 foot tall bronze which sits on top of the Capitol's dome.

There are many, many statues of famous people through out the Capitol, but of course visiting Swedes want to see the bust of Raoul Wallenberg.  He's on display in Emancipation Hall.
The highlight of the tour is, of course, the Rotunda. Here is Constantino Brumidi's fresco The Apotheosis of Washington, viewed from 180 feet below.  Yep, it's way up there.  Thank goodness for a zoom lens.  Geo. Washington is seen seated between the allegorical figures of Liberty and Victory.  Circling this threesome are 13 maidens depicting the 13 original colonies which formed the early United States.  At the six o'clock position we see Bellona, depicted as Freedom defeating Tyranny (kingly power).  Continuing clock-wise Brumidi depicted Science, Maritime Interests, Commerce, Mechanics and Agriculture in a manner which reflected the values and interests of those days.  For example, Ceres, the figure depicting  Agriculture is seen astride a McCormick Reaper.  If Brumidi came back to life and painted this today would Commerce be rendered as Steve Jobs (instead of Mercury) holding an iPad?
A panel from the Frieze of American History.  This gives a Cliff's Notes summary of 400 years of American history from the landing of Columbus to the Wright Brothers.  Brumidi designed sketches and started the initial work but fell from the scaffold in 1880 and died a few months later.  Filippo Costaggini was hired to finish the remaining eight scenes from Brumidi's sketches but even so this left 31 feet of unpainted recess.  It wasn't completed until 1953 by Allyn Cox.
In addition to the fresco, frieze and statues in the rotunda, there are also a number of paintings done on a monumental scale.  Here are details from John Gadsby Chapman's The Baptism of Pocahontas.  The event depicted is believed to have taken place either in 1613 or 1614.  For curious minds, her baptized name was Rebecca...

Some of the statues in the Rotunda.  Note the flashy Corinthian Columns.

This is a statue of History, apparently ease-dropping on members of Congress and busily recording their speeches.   Note the wheel, cleverly incorporating a clock so that congressmen know when it's time to get the hell out of town.

Fianlly, our tour took us down to the Crypt.  Note the much plainer Doric Columns.  George Washington was supposed to be buried here but he refused and his remains are at his home in the more pastoral resting place of  Mount Vernon.  I don't blame him.
I've barely scratched the surface on the inside of the building but kids have had enough.  Even the grounds around the Capitol abound with interesting details such as this Japanese lantern.  After demands for food had been met we moved on to the Air and Space Museum but that's another post for another time.


  1. Hej George !
    Fina bilder du levererar spännande att se insidan av denna enorma byggnad. Är Wallenberg så uppskattad i US så han står med egen byst på Capitolium? Hade du aldrig varit där som bor så
    pass nära?
    Lev väl hälsa din fru !

    1. Hej Johannes: Tack igen för dina vänliga kommentarer! Jag är glad att du gillade bilderna. Ja, Wallenberg är väl känd i USA. Vi har även en politiker som räddades av Wallenberg, och tack vare honom så är Wallenberg en amerikansk hedersmedborgare. Om man går till det relativt nya förintelsemuseum här i Washington DC så befinner man sig på "Raoul Wallenbergs Plats".
      Elisabeth hälsar så gott.

  2. Elisabeth has gout? Hope she gets well soon.

    1. Tillerman: All I can say in response is "Thank God for culture clash!"