Library of Congress 2015 - 12 Oct 2015
Library of Congress - United States Library
The Reading Rooms is octagonal with eight huge piers supporting arches with a circular entablature from which the dome rises. The piers are set forward, creating two-story arcades behind marble screens. Towering twice life-size statues, representing eight branches of learning, punctuate the tops of the clustered piers. Two statues of historical figures representing each of the eight disciplines stand on the upper balcony. (For example, Art, an almost nude figure carrying a model of the Parthenon, is flanked by figures on the balcony representing Michelangelo and Beethoven; see center image below.) The semi circular windows, framed by the alcove arches, are 32 feet wide at the base with stained glass images of the United States seal and on either side of the US seal (6 in each window) are representations of the seals of the 48 states existing at the time. Viewed from the gallery, they are in chronological order, as they became states, running counter-clockwise from Delaware, which is above those in the gallery. The coffered dome, divided in eight stucco panels, was designed by sculptor Albert Weinert. The rosette coffers decrease in size toward the oculus, thus making the height of the dome seem greater. The domed ceiling is 160 feet high--from the floor to the top of the lantern; or it is 125 feet from the floor to the top of the dome.) The painting at the "collar" of the dome by Edwin Howland Blashfield depicts the Evolution of Civilization with twelve colossal figures representing various countries or epochs and their contributions to civilization. The first is Egypt, which gave written records, and the last America, illustrated as an engineer with a dynamo in front of him, to represent advancements in science.
The ceiling of the library's Great Hall at the front of the building is inlaid with six decorative stained-glass skylights and aluminum plating. Along the perimeter of the ceiling are the names of ten authors, considered to have made great contributions to literature. They are Dante, Homer, Milton, Bacon, Aristotle, Goethe, Shakespeare, Moliere, Moses, and Herodotus. At each corner of the ceiling are two winged figures of genius, shown with traditional emblems of knowledge, a torch and a book. There is a balcony above the Great Hall, consisting of four second-floor corridors, each with an intricately decorated vaulted ceiling. The ceiling in the North Corridor sports brightly colored paintings by Robert Reid and rectangular panels by Frederic C. Martin; Reid's five octagonal paintings depict representations of the five senses, and Martin's panels portray six scenes of ancient athletes participating in sporting events. On the East Corridor's vaulted ceiling, one can find three panels by William Andrew MacKay, representing the Life of Man, accompanied by quotes from literature. Lining the vaulted ceiling on both side are eight paintings by Randolph Barse, Jr., meant to represent different genres of literature. The South Corridor's ceiling contains three octagonal paintings by Frank Weston Benson, illustrating the Three Graces, namely Husbandry, Music, and Beauty. Three panels by William B. Van Ingen dominate the West Corridor's vaulted ceiling. Ingen's paintings are meant to represent Sculpture, Architecture, and Painting. Along either side of the ceiling are four rectangular paintings by Walter Shirlaw, for a total of eight illustrations depicting eight different sciences: Archaeology, Botany, Astronomy, Chemistry, Zoology, Physics, Mathematics, and Geology.
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