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holds up in either hand an end of a heavy garland of flowers, which, stretching
in a single festoon to the extremity of the tympanum, is there caught up by a
little boy or genius. In the middle of each half of the picture, and in each
tympanum the same on both sides, is an ornamental bronze column flanked
on either hand by a bronze standard or tripod, all three united by floating
streamers or ribands into a single group, and each serving as a pedestal on
which to place some emblems of the Element represented.

In the tympanum of Earth the idea is the fertility and bounteousness of the
soil. In the central group the figure to the right leans her arm upon an am-
phora or ancient wine-jar, and holds in her hand a rose. The figure to the left
is that of a reaper, with a wreath of grains on her head and a bundle of wheat
by her side, and holding in her hand a sickle. The geniuses at the ends of
the decoration are dancing for jollity. The background is a smiling and luxu-
riant summer landscape, the fruits of which, the peach, the plum, the pear, the
grape and the rest, are displayed in the great garlands which the central figure
holds up with outstretched arms. The bronze columns support baskets of fruit,
and on the accompanying standards are perched magnificent peacocks. The
border of the decoration includes masks, urns and lions, the last emblematic of
the subject of the decoration.

The central figure in the decoration typifying Air stands upon a bank of
clouds ; she is winged, and a large star blazes on her forehead. Of the figures
to her right and left, the first is winged and the second carries the caduceus.
The festoons are of morning glories, upheld at the further ends by flying gen-
iuses. The background is sky and clouds. The central standards carry as-


trolabes, as being the typical astronomical instrument of a few centuries ago,
and eagles are perched on those to the side. In the border, winged griffins
are substituted for lions.

The background of the third tympanum, Fire, is a mountainous and volcanic
region, its peaks touched with lurid light from constant eruptions. The fes-
toons are composed of sunflowers, and the seated figures in the centre carry
each a flaming torch. The columns to the right and left bear flaming globes,
while the flanking standards support the fiery nest of the phoenix the bird
which was fabled by the ancients to live, sole of its species, five hundred years,
at the end of which time it repaired to the desert and built a funeral pyre, in
the flames of which it was consumed. From its ashes as a nest a new phcenix
arose, as here depicted. In the border of the decoration are salamanders,
which, according to the old superstition, lived in the midst of fire.

In the last tympanum, Water, the central figure, clad in green, holds festoons
of seaweed and water-lilies flowers, buds and pads. On either side is a mer-
maid, one of them with a seashell. The background is the open sea. The
standards are in the form of rostral columns (such as the Romans erected in
honor of their victorious admirals) ornamented with garlands of laurel and the
beaks and stems of captured ships. On top is set a galley, with oars and sails.
Over each of the standards to the side hovers a sea gull. The geniuses at the
end of the picture have tails like mermaids, and in the border are dolphins.

The disc of the ceiling repeats in another form the general idea of the dec-
orations of the tympanums. In the centre is the sun, across which the sun-god,
Apollo, drives his four-horse chariot. The sun, however, is still the sun, and
not a yellow background ; the dusky picture outlined against it is to be taken
as a vision, so to say, of its attributes.

Around the sun as a centre, is painted a chain of alternate medallions and
cartouches four of each, or eight in all which typify the Four Elements
represented in the tympanums below. A medallion and a cartouche are devoted
to each. The former sort are painted so as to suggest a cameo design. The
first of them, which occurs, like the other three, on the side nearest the tympanum
of the corresponding subject, typifies Earth, a female figure reclined amidst a
summer landscape. In her hand is a scythe, and behind her is a plow, standing
in the midst of a wheat field. Water is a mermaid riding off a rocky shore on
the back of a dolphin. In her hand she holds an oar. Fire is a woman
watching the smoke which floats away from the flame of a little brazier at her
side. Behind her is a tripod on which incense is burning. In the distance is
Mt. Vesuvius, sending out a steady cloud of smoke, and in the plain beneath
are the ruins of Pompeii. Air is a female figure clad in flowing drapery, and
floating among the clouds on the outstretched wings of an eagle.

The cartouches are more simply designed. That of Earth contains a tor-
toise, on the back of which, according to the Hindoo mythology, the earth is
ultimately supported. Air is typified by a swan ; Fire, by a lamp ; and Water
by two intertwined dolphins. Finally the whole decoration is surrounded by a
broad band of arabesque ornament, in which are placed the signs of the Zodiac.


The third of the second-story pavilions is the Pavilion of the Seals, at the
northeast corner of the building. The walls in this room, it may be noted, are


treated differently from those of the other three pavilions. Instead of the
frieze and the paired pilasters, one has wall-surfaces covered with gilding and
ornamented with painted laurel-bands arranged in regular patterns recalling the
designs of the parterres of an old-fashioned garden.

The paintings in the tympanums are by Mr. W. B. Van Ingen, and illustrate
the seals of the various Executive Departments of the United States Government.
The disc of the domed ceiling was designed by Mr. Garnsey, and shows the Great
Seal of the United States surrounded by allegorical emblems.

Mr. Van Ingen's Paintings. As in the previous pavilions on this floor,
the general arrangement of the decoration is the same in all four tympanums.
In each the artist has introduced a low terrace or wall of masonry running from
end to end, thus serving both to ballast the picture, as it were, and to bind its
parts more strongly together. A recess in the centre of the terrace allows space
for a circular tablet, painted to represent wood, about six feet in diameter, or
nearly the height of the tympanum. On this are inscribed, as if in raised A etters,
one or more quotations from the writings or speeches of great American states-
men. These were selected by the Librarian, Mr. Spofford, mainly for their
general patriotic application, but, of course, as far as possible with some special
reference to the subject of the decoration. The border of each tablet, as of the
decoration itself, is a band of laurel-leaves, suggested by the laurel-roll which
outlines the disc of the ceiling.

On either side of the tablet is a female figure, seated against the terrace,
personifying a Department of the Government, in token of which she supports
a shield or cartouche on which the seal of that Department is conspicuously
displayed. The visitor will notice that these figures (in this respect like Mr.
Reid's in the Entrance Hall) illustrate the American type of woman, and wear
modern gowns and not conventional Greek or Roman drapery.

The two figures and the tablet between form the necessary central pyramidal
composition. For a limit and balance to the decoration the artist has painted,
at either end, a cypress-tree and, in all but one of the tympanums, one or two
nude children or geniuses, usually engaged in some action which shall be useful
in explaining the purport of the picture, the meaning of which is still further
brought out, in most cases, by introducing into the background a well known
monument or building, or some conventional object, suggestive of the functions
of the Department represented.

The west tympanum is devoted to the Department of the Treasury and the
Department of State ; the north tympanum to the Department of Justice and
the Post-Office Department ; the east tympanum to the Departments of Agri-
culture and the Interior ; and the south tympanum to the War and Navy Depart-

Half a tympanum is devoted to each. The Department of the Treasury to
begin with the one first named in the above list is sufficiently indicated by
the introduction of the Treasury Building in the background. Two children are
playing on the parapet, one of them with his foot on a strong-box. The back-
ground of the other portion of the tympanum illustrating the Department of
State exhibits the dome and west front of the Capitol and, to the right, the
Washington Monument. The vital thing about a nation that which it is the
first business of a Department of State to help preserve is its independence.
The Monument may be taken, therefore, as standing for the establishment of that
independence, and the Capitol for its maintenance. A dog, typical of fidelity,


lies in the foreground. The cypress trees, it may be noted before passing to
the next tympanum, are introduced purely for their decorative effect, and are
without any symbolical meaning. In all the decorations they are set in jars
copied from Zuni originals in the National Museum.

In the north tympanum, the figure of Justice is clad in ermine. On the ter-
race is a high bronze standard, carrying a pair of evenly balanced scales. The
genius at the left holds a measuring rod, for exact justice. In the other half of
the painting, devoted to the Post-Office Department, the genius is represented
with a pair of compasses marking out mail routes on a globe. Mercury was
the Messenger of the Gods, according to classic mythology, and a bronze statue
of him with his winged sandals, staff, and cap, is appropriately set upon the
stone terrace to typify
the dispatch and ce-
lerity of the Depart-

Agriculture, in the
next tympanum, is
symbolized solely in
the fertile and well
cultivated landscape
which forms the back-
ground of her portion
of the decoration.
The chief duty of the
Department of the
Interior to protect
and control the In-
dians is indicated
in the background of
the other half of the
picture by a represen-
tation of the curious
method of burial, if
one may use the word,
which prevails among
certain of the westerr
tribes the body,
lashed to a few poles
for a bier, being laid away in the branches of a tree.

In the last tympanum, that of War and the Navy, the terrace is nicked and
shattered by the bullets of the enemy. The figure to the left, representing the
Department of War, holds a regulation army sword, and the figure to the right
a naval sword. To the left the two children are engaged in combat ; one is
falling, stained with blood, while the other presses upon him with a falchion, or
Roman sword. The corresponding composition to the right is much the same ;
the chief difference being the trident which the victor aims at his opponent's
breast. War is accompanied by a Roman standard adapted to an American use
by altering the old initials " S. P. Q. R." " The Senate and People of Rome "
to " U. S. A." In the background is Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. On
the other side are the masts of the recently constructed battleship Indiana, and



a rostral column of the same sort as those used in the tympanum representing
Water in the Pavilion of the Elements, but in this case copied exactly from the
one erected in honor of Commodore Decatur and afterwards removed to An-
napolis, where it is now. The inscriptions on the tablets in the four tympanums
may most conveniently be inserted here. In the west tympanum, that of the
State and Treasury Departments, the quotations are as follows :

Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any
portion of the foreign world. WASHINGTON.

Let our object be our country, our whole country, and nothing but
our country. WEBSTER.

Thank God I also am an American. WEBSTER.

In the north tympanum :

Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion,
religious or political : peace, commerce and honest friendship with all
nations entangling alliance with none. THOMAS JEFFERSON.

In the west tympanum :

The agricultural interest of the country is connected with every
other, and superior in importance to them all. ANDREW JACKSON.

Let us have peace. U. S. GRANT.

In the south tympanum :

The aggregate happiness of society is, or ought to be, the end of all
government. WASHINGTON.

To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserv-
ing peace. WASHINGTON.

Mr. Garnsey's Ceiling Painting. The disc of the dome contains one
of the most interesting and ingeniously arranged of the purely conventional
decorations which ornament the Library. In the centre is the great seal of the
United States, which puts the final touch of significance upon the series of
paintings in the tympanums. Surrounding it is a circular band containing
forty-eight stars, one for each State and Territory. On the diagonal axes of the
room are four medallions containing heads symbolizing the Four Winds North,
South, East and West each blowing a gale from his mouth, as in the classical
representations. They stand, of course, for the four great natural divisions of
the country. Below each medallion is a garland of fruits or grains, festooned
from bunches of eagles' feathers which spring from the central panel of the
decoration, and indicating the nature of the products of each section. The
garland under the medallion of the North Wind, for example, is composed of
apples, pears, peaches, and similar fruits ; that under the East Wind, of various
vegetables and berries; under the West Wind, grains, as wheat, oats, and
maize ; and under the South Wind, bananas, pomegranates, oranges, lemons,
and so forth.

Other emblematic objects introduced into the decoration are lyres, each
flanked on either side by a horn of plenty filled with fruits ; and flaming torches,
set between a pair of dolphins. There are thus two sorts of groups, each of
which occurs four times in the decoration in accordance with the standard fixed


by the four medallions of the Winds. The four different objects depicted
signify four of the great interests of the country the lyre, the Fine Arts;
the cornucopia, Agriculture; the torch, Learning and Education; and the
dolphin, Maritime Commerce. Finally the composition is united by American
flags festooned from the lyres to the garlands of fruit which underhang the
medallions of the Winds. And around the whole is a narrow border, on which
are inscribed the following words from Lincoln's Gettysburg address, used also,
in part, by Mr. Vedder in his decorations in the Entrance Hall :

That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ; that
government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not per-
ish from the earth.


The entablature and paired pilasters which decorate the walls of the two
pavilions to the south, are resumed in the Northwest Pavilion, or Pavilion of
Art and Science, if one choose to name it, as the three corresponding rooms on
this floor were named, from the subject of the paintings which it contains.

Mr. W. de L. Dodge's Paintings. These paintings, both in the tym-
panums and in the ceiling disc, are the work of Mr. William de Leftwich
Dodge. The subjects are as follows : in the west tympanum, Literature ; north
tympanum, Music; east tympanum, Science; south tympanum, Art; and in the
ceiling disc, Ambition, considered as the incentive of all human effort, whether in
art, science, or affairs. Comparing them with the other decorations in the
Library, the visitor will be struck with the unusually large number of figures
which Mr. Dodge has introduced into his canvases, all, of course, helping to
illustrate some phase of the subject under which they are grouped. Through-
out, however, the meaning is unusually clear, the special significance of every
figure being indicated either by some expressive attitude or action, or by the
introduction of some appropriate and typical object.

Literature shows a varied group of male and female figures sitting or standing.
The scene is along the steps of an old Greek temple. The God of Letters
or Apollo, if one wishes sits in the foreground holding an open book. Be-
hind him is a company of maidens reading in an ancient scroll, which they un-
roll from hand to hand. To the right, a woman is instructing two children in
the rudiments of learning. Comedy, a nude and easy figure, is looking at the
ludicrous features of a comic mask, and Tragedy stands in an attitude of reci-
tation, lifting her arms in an emphasizing gesture. In the corner is a little boy
working over an ancient hand-press. To the left a poet sits with his head
bowed in thought, perhaps in despair that his verses have not received their
due meed of applause ; but Fame stands behind him holding out the wreath of
laurel with which, after many years, she means to crown him. Further on is
another poet, who, as he reclines half dreaming on the ground, is suddenly in-
spired with the rapture of the Muse. In the corner is a bust of Homer, with a
pile of books for pedestal.

In Music, Apollo, as the God of Song and Harmony, is seated in the centre
of a long marble bench playing upon a lyre. Other figures, variously disposed
throughout the panel, play upon a number of different musical instruments,
illustrating at once the development and present scope of the art. One plays


a violin, two others are blowing trumpets, a fourth has the double pipes, another
a mandolin and so on.

The central figure of Science the background of which is again the columns
and marble steps of a temple is a winged female figure descending through
the air to crown the inventor of the phonograph, who kneels on the steps be-
fore her with a simple electrical instrument beside him. More broadly con-
sidered, the group typifies the triumphs of modern electrical science, summed
up indeed, in the invention of the phonograph, but including as well the electric
telegraph and the telephone. To the right is a man holding the model of a pro-
peller steamship, and further on a husbandman with his team of horses, gather-
ing the fruits of Agriculture. To the left is a table, on which are set two alem-
bics for Physics, and around which is gathered a group of scientists, one holding
a human skull, which forms the subject of their discussion. The group may be
taken to represent the various medical and surgical sciences, such as Phy-
siology, Anatomy, and so forth. Further to the left is a figure looking at a
kite lying on the ground a reminder of Benjamin Franklin's famous elec-
trical experiment with the kite and the key. In the background is a little
camp-fire over which a tea-kettle is suspended, for Watt's celebrated discovery
of the power of steam.

Art shows a student sketching a nude model. Behind him is his instructor
criticizing his work. Sculpture is symbolized to the left, and, to the right, a
young woman is painting a design upon a great Greek vase. Behind her are
the capitals of a number of the more familiar orders of Architecture, as the
Egyptian and the Doric.

In the painting of Ambition in the ceiling, the scene is supposed to be the
top of a high mountain, but only the marble terrace which marks the summit
is actually visible in the painting. Here is gathered a group which has toiled
along a weary path up the mountain side to comparative success ; but none is
satisfied. Above them, the Unattainable Ideal, a figure holding aloft in mock-
ery the palm branch of complete achievement, rides through the air on a great
winged horse. In front is Fame, grasping the horse's bridle with one hand,
and turning to those below to sound a derisive note on her trumpet. The fig-
ures on the mountain top are involved in a scene of mad confusion ; some for
the moment are distracted by crime or lust, or cynical contempt, but most
reach out their arms in ineffectual eagerness to attain the glorious vision above
them. They have leapt to the top of the terrace in their fierce desire to gain
the slightest advantage. To the left, a murderer shrinks back in horror from
the body of the miser whom he has just slain ; as he starts away, aghast at his
crime, he topples over a flaming tripod which had been set on a post of the
terrace. Conspicuous figures in the mad struggle for success are a warrior, with
sword, greaves, and helmet, and a sculptor, bearing a statuette of the Venus of
Milo. In front of them is the seated figure of a poet, with a bandage over his
eyes to indicate the abstraction and ideality of his thought. Further on, a
man flings out both arms in a mad appeal, and on the moment is grasped in
the arms of a woman, who drags him back to the level of her own baseness.
A jester, one of Shakespeare's fools, in his cap and parti-colored coat, stands
near by, holding a bauble surmounted by a skull in one hand, and a statuette
of Victory in the other. That fame comes only after death, and that the
promptings of personal ambition are but a hollow mockery, is the moral that
he preaches.



From Mr. Dodge's Pavilion, one goes into the Northwest Galtery, which leads
directly into the Main Entrance Hall once more. In dimensions, arrangement,
and general architectural scheme it corresponds to the Southwest Gallery, with
which the visitor began his tour through the Rectangle. The prevailing color,
however, is red, and not blue, both in the walls and in the coffers of the vaulted

Mr. Melchers's Paintings. At either end, occupying the same position
as Mr. Cox's decorations, and of the same size and shape, is a painting by Mr.
Gari Melchers, illustrating, at the north, War, and at the south, Peace. The
same subjects, it is interesting to note, and as many readers will remember,
were chosen by Mr. Melchers for his decorations at the World's Fair in Chicago.
The present paintings may be taken, therefore, as representing the development
and completion of a favorite idea of the artist.

In the panel of War, the scene represented is that of a chieftain of some
primitive tribe returning home with his clansmen across a desolate tract of
open country from a successful battle. He is crowned with a wreath of laurel,
and sits proudly astride a magnificent white horse. A second horseman rides
beside him, and another a little behind. Three men carry a roughly constructed
bier on which they are bringing home the dead body of a warrior for burial in
his native soil. In the right-hand corner a woman kneels to care for a wounded
man who has just sunk exhausted to the ground. Behind, a trumpeter sounds
his horn, exulting in this dearly bought victory. To the left two foot-soldiers
carry shields emblazoned with devices of primitive heraldry. One of them
holds in a leash two straining bloodhounds, eager for their kennels, and lead-
ing the way toward home.

Mr. Melchers's other painting, Peace, represents an early religious procession.
The inhabitants of some little village, perhaps in prehistoric Greece, have come
to the border of a grove bearing the image of their tutelar goddess, a small
seated figure set on a little platform covered with an embroidered cloth. The
procession has halted, and the priest is reading from a paper which he holds in
his hand, containing, very likely, a blessing in the name of the goddess upon
the fields and orchards of the villagers. Various objects, one of them the
model of a ship, are carried in the procession to be offered up as memorials in
the temple of the goddess, and in the rear a boy leads to the sacrifice a bull
wreathed with garlands.

The following names forming a list of the world's most famous generals
and admirals are inscribed in tablets above the doors and windows of the
gallery : Cyrus, Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Charles Martel, William the Con-
queror, Frederick the Great, Charlemagne, Eugene, Marlborough, Napoleon,
Wellington, Nelson, Washington, Jackson, Scott, Grant, Farragut, Sherman, and


The only rooms on the first story of the Rectangle which require a special
description are the galleries and pavilions stretching from the Main Entrance
Hall along the west front ot the building. As has been said before, entrance
to these is through two corridors, leading to the north and south. The corn-

dors look out upon the in-
terior courts ; the floors are
of mosaic, and the walls are

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Online LibraryHerbert SmallHandbook of the Library of Congress → online text (page 11 of 13)