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spirit and costume. The Homer follows an ancient ideal bust. The Herodotus
and Plato are studied from original Greek sculptures. The features of the other
ten are taken from portraits from life, and the costumes are accurately copied
from contemporary fashions.

The Moses of Mr Niehaus holds the Table
of the Law, and, like Michael Angelo's fa-
mous figure, is horned a curious convention
which crept into art from an ancient mistrans-
lation of a passage in Exodus. The St. Paul
is a bearded figure, one hand on the hilt of a
great two-edged sword, and the other holding
a scroll. Mr. Ruckstuhl has conceived his
Solon as the typical law-giver of the ancient
world. He is represented as stepping for-
ward, clothed in all the power of the state, to
announce at a solemn gathering of the people
the supremacy of Law over Force. A fold
of his garment is drawn over his head with
a certain priestly suggestion, as if the laws
he proclaimed were of divine origin. He
holds aloft, in his left hand, a scroll bearing
the Greek words 01 NOMOI, which, though
meaning simply "The Law," were under-
stood as referring especially to Solon's enact-
ments. His right hand rests upon a sheathed
and inverted sword, which is wreathed with
laurel. The idea is that law has supplanted
force, but that force is always ready to carry
out the mandates of the law. Homer is re-
presented with a staff in his hand and a wreath
of laurel crowning his head. Mr. French represents Herodotus as a traveller,
searching the known world for the materials of his histories. His garments are
girt up, he bears a long staff in one hand, and shades his eyes with a scroll as
he gazes into the distance to discover his destination. The Fulton carries a
model of a steamboat, and the Henry an electro- magnet, for discoveries in
electrical science. The Beethoven shows the composer with his hand up-
lifted as if to beat the measure of the harmony which has suddenly come into
his mind so suddenly that in the eagerness of his movement he has pulled
the pocket of his greatcoat inside out. Mr. Macmonnies's Shakespeare is a
somewhat novel study, so far as the head is concerned ; it is a composite of
the portrait in the first collected edition of the Plays and of the Stratford bust.
The figure of Kent wears the judicial ermine ; he carries in one hand the manu-




script of his Commentaries, and holds a pen in the other. Of the other figures,
some, like the Gibbon, carry a book or pen ; but in most instances the sculptor
has sought merely to give his subject an appropriately noble and contempla-
tive attitude and expression, without introducing any special symbol of his work.
Mr. Flanagan's Clock. The group ornamenting the great clock over the
entrance to the Rotunda is the work of Mr. John Flanagan, the sculptor of the
figures of Commerce. In a panel about 8 feet 6 inches square is arranged a dial
structure in various colored marbles a rich deep red, sienna, and green Afri-
can incrusted with Malachite, Lapis Lazuli, Thulite, and other semi-precious
stones. The dial is a sun in gilt bronze three feet in diameter, framed with a


wreath and garlands of intertwined oak and laurel in bronze patina. The hands
of the clock are two intertwining serpents in enameled copper. On either side
of the dial structure are seated figures in bronze, of students, typifying the
" Reader " and the " Writer."

Including, of course, Mr. Weinert's and Mr. Martiny's work, it will be seen
that no less than nineteen American sculptors have contributed to the decora-
tion of the Rotunda. Considering the room just for the moment, and for
the sake of the special point of view merely as a Gallery of Statuary, it will
be seen how important -and representative a collection of American sculpture
has been brought together.


The Lighting of the Rotunda. The soffits of the arches upholding
the dome are ornamented with a row of plain coffers ; the larger arches which
roof the alcoves within, carry a triple row of more elaborate coffers, each with
a gilt rosette. The windows of stained glass, already spoken of as enclosed
by these arches, are semicircular in form and measure thirty-two feet across at



the base. They furnish the greater part of the light needed for the illumina-
tion of the room. No shadows are cast in any direction. Being so high above
the floor, the light from them is much more effective than if they were nearer
the level of the reader's eye. They are better even than skylights, and with
none of the disadvantages of skylights. Other sources of light are the various


little windows pierced in the four walls of the Octagon which face the interior
courts ; and, above, the eight windows of the Lantern. It has been said that
no reading room in the world is so well lighted so steadily, abundantly and
uniformly, whether on the brightest or the darkest day. Mr. Blashfield's paint-
ings in the dome, for example, can hardly be said to receive direct light from
a single window in the room, but for all that, so perfectly is the light diffused,
they are as easily made out as any decorations in the building.

In the evening, the light, which is furnished entirely by electric lamps, is
quite as perfect in its way as in the daytime. In the second story of the
arcading of the marble screens, a brass rod runs between the capitals of each
arch, supporting in the centre a brass star of eight points, each point an
electric lamp of thirty- two-candle power. With seven of these in each screen
(except the west, where Mr. Flanagan's clock leaves room for only four),
and eight screens, one has a total of four hundred and twenty-four lamps
thus used. Above the cornice of the second entablature is a great ring con-
taining three hundred and eight more. Similarly, a line of fifty lamps occurs
at the bottom of each of the semicircular windows, making four hundred in aM ;



and in the eye of the lantern, so placed, however, that the lamps themselves are
invisible, is a second ring numbering forty-six. On the floor, the reading desks
are equipped, altogether, with sixty-eight bronze standards, each bearing three
lamps, or two hundred and four in all. Add the number, seventy-six, which
serve to light the Distributing Desk and the lower story of the alcoves, and the
result is a grand total of fourteen hundred and fifty- eight, and a total candle-
t x>wer of upwards of forty thousand. When the current is turned on and all
these lamps are lit, the Rotunda presents a spectacle of light and shadow worth
going far to see.

The Semicircular Windows. It is calculated that, by putting stained
^lass in the eight semicircular windows, the amount of light admitted has been
diminished almost exactly one-eighth ; in other words, the result is the same
as if one of the eight had been quite closed up. The loss, of course, is hardly
appreciated in a room sufficiently supplied with light from such a number of

The windows are double, with about four inches between the two sashes.
The glass used for the outside is plain, but of different degrees of translucency,
according as it is necessary to prevent the entrance of direct sunshine, which,


if admitted, would be disagreeable to the occupant of the room and would
distort the desirable even effect of the stained glass within. Thus, in the east
and west, ribbed skylight glass is used ; in the southeast, south, and southwest,
ribbed and ground glass ; while on the other three sides, where the sun never
comes, the glass is left perfectly clear.

The cartoons for the stained glass were made by Mr. Schladermundt, after
designs prepared by the architect, Mr. Casey. The ground is a crackled white,
leaded throughout into small, square panes. In order to give an effect of bold-
ness and strength, the windows are divided vertically by heavy iron bars. The
design is surrounded by a richly colored border of laurel, combined with
rosettes and Roman fasces. At the top, in the middle of each window, is the
great seal of the United States, four feet high, surmounted by the American
eagle, whose outstretched wings measure eight feet from tip to tip. To the
right and left, following the curve of the window, are the seals of the States
and Territories, three on a side, or six in each window, so that forty-eight
excluding only Alaska and Indian Territory are contained in the eight win-
dows. Torches alternate with the seals, and the fasces are introduced at the

The name of the State or Territory is inscribed above each seal, with the
date of the year in which it was admitted to the Union, or organized under a
territorial form of government. The seals occur in the order of their dates, the
series beginning with the Thirteen Original States which start in the easterly
window in the order in which they signed the Constitution and continuing
around the room to the three Territories of New Mexico, Arizona, and Okla-
homa. Taken all in all they form one of the most interesting decorations in
the Library, for the reason that the artist has succeeded in making a harmonious
whole out of a very heterogeneous collection of designs. The originals, of
course, were separately drawn, often by persons unacquainted with heraldry,
and never with any particular thought of fitting them into a single series like
the present. The result is that these originals show the greatest diversity of
treatment. The key, so to speak, is continually changing. Sometimes, for ex-
ample, a figure introduced in the foreground is dwarfed by an altogether dispro-
portionate background, while in other cases the figure overpowers every-
thing else ; copied exactly, any heraldic or artistic unity of effect would be
entirely lacking. Accordingly, after getting together a complete collection of
the seals in every instance an authentic impression of the original obtained
from the State secretary Mr. Schladermundt re-drew, and often almost re-
designed his material to bring it into accordance with his decorative scheme.
Just what it was that Mr. Schladermundt undertook to do may best be seen in
the accompanying engravings of the Seal of Kansas, the first giving the seal
as used on official papers, the second copied from Mr. Schladermundt's cartoon.
It will be seen that the spirit of the seal and its heraldic intention are the same
in both. The only difference is that in Mr. Schladermundt's design certain
changes of proportion have been made to make 'he seal harmonize with the
style to which the artist wished to have all his designs adhere. In many cases,
particularly in the seals of the Thirteen Original States, the original has hardly
been changed at all. In the seal of the State of Washington, indeed, which
consists merely of a portrait of Washington himself, Mr. Schladermundt has
unobstrusively added the Washington arms in the upper corner of the design,
in order to suggest the desirable heraldic conventionality more fully; occa-




sion.tlly, too, it has been necessary to omit certain minor details as being
unsu.ted to the breadth of treatment necessary in stained glass but, as a
rule, Mr. Schladermundt has followed very carefully the specifications contained
in the authoritative legislative enactments.

The Dome. A vertical section of the dome of
the Rotunda would show an exact half circle, with a
diameter of one hundred feet. As has been said be-
fore, the dome is of stucco, applied to a framework of
iron and steel, filled in with terra cotta. Although, as
previously described, it appears to rest upon the deep
upper entablature, it really springs immediately from
the eight arches resting upon the great piers. The
entablature, as will be seen on a close inspection,
bears no part in the construction. It is projected
so far forward from the dome that one may easily
walk between the two.

The entablature is about seven feet high, with a
richly moulded architrave and a heavy projecting cor-
nice. The ground of the frieze is gilt, with a relief
ornament in white of eagles standing upon hemis-
pheres and holding in their beaks a heavy garland of
laurel. Over the north, south, east, and west arches,
are two female figures the work of Mr. Philip Mar-
tiny represented as seated upon the architrave
moulding and supporting a heavy cartouche another
instance of the emphasis which the architect has so
often placed upon the four main axes of the building.

The Stucco Ornamentation. The dome is so simply planned that a
description of its main features may be given in a very brief space. The sur-
face is filled with a system of square coffers. The ornamentation of the body
of the dome is in arabesque. The eight ribs which mark off the dome into
compartments are each divided into
two by a band of gilded ornament re-
sembling a guilloche. The coffers di-
minish in size from four and a half feet
square at the bottom to two and a half
feel; at the top. The total number of
coffers is three hundred and twenty
or forty in each compartment, and also
in each horizontal row, and eight in
each vertical row. The ground of the
coffers is blue, the sky-color, as if one
were really looking out into the open
air and therefore the color tradition-
ally used in coffering. To give sparkle and brilliancy, many shades and kinds of
blue are used, the darker and heavier at the bottom, and the lighter and airier
toward the top. The transition is so gradual and natural that the eye does not
perceive any definite change, but only a generally increased vividness. The
border mouldings of the coffers are cream-colored old ivory is the usual term
strongly touched with gold, and in the centre of each is a great gold rosette.




Although the purpose of the dome arabesque is primarily to give an agree-
able impression of light and shade, the individual figures of which it is com-
posed are nearly as interesting a study as the general effect of the whole. The
variety of the figures is almost bewildering lions' heads, sea-horses, dolphins,
urns, cartouches, griffins, shells, storks, caryatides, tridents, eagles, cherubs,
half-figures, geniuses altogether something like forty-five "principal type-
designs, interwoven with verv ma.nv smaller t>ut no less beautiful pieces of
ornament. AH are adapted from Renaissance models of the best and purest
period, and are combined with the utmost spirit and harmony in an arabesque
whose every portion has equal artistic value. No single figure catches the eye ;
broad horizontal and vertical bands of decoration, gradually diminishing as
they approach the top, encircle and ascend the dome, each with its particular
"note" of arrangement and design, but all cunningly united to form an in-
disputable whole, everywhere balanced and restrained.

It may be of interest to the visitor to learn that one of the most novel and
ingenious pieces of engineering con-
nected with the construction of the
Library was a so-called "travelling"
or rotary scaffold, devised by Mr.
Green for the use of the workmen
employed on the stucco decorations
of the dome. It may be likened to a
huge pair of steps, ascending from the
upper entablature to the lantern. Its
upper end thrust against an iron pintle
secured to beams laid across the eye
of the lantern, and was steadied at
the bottom by a pair of flanged wheels,
which travelled on a track in the en-
tablature, so that the whole apparatus
could be traversed entirely round the
room. The various stages or landings
were adjusted to fit the concave of
the dome, with the result that the
accuracy of the curve could be tested with almost mathematical exactness.
At one time two of these scaffolds were swung to the same pintle.

Mr. Blashfield's Paintings. The position of Mr. Blashfield's decora-
tions in the Collar and Lantern of the dome is the noblest and most inspiring
in the Library. They are literally and obviously the crowning glory of the
building, and put the final touch of completion on the whole decorative scheme
of the interior. The visitor will see how, without them, not a painting in the
building would seem to remain solidly and easily in its place, for they occupy not
only the highest, but the exact central point of the Library, to which, in a sense,
every other is merely relative.

As was hinted in the description of Mr. Vedder's paintings, Mr. Blashfield
was almost necessarily drawn to select some such subject as he has here 'chosen
the Evolution of Civilization, the records of which it is the function of a great
library to gather and preserve.

The ceiling of the Lantern is sky and air, against which, as a background,
floats the beautiful female figure representing the Human Understanding,




lifting her veil and looking upward from Finite Intellectual Achievement (typ-
ified in the circle of figures in the collar) to that which is beyond ; in a word,
Intellectual Progress looking upward and forward. She is attended by two
cherubs, or geniuses ; one holds the book of wisdom and knowledge, the other
seems, by his gesture, to be encouraging those beneath to persist in their
struggle towards perfection.

The decoration of the collar consists of a ring of twelve seated figures, male
and female, ranged against a wall of mosaic patterning. They are of colossal
size, measuring, as they sit, about ten feet in height. They represent the
twelve countries, or epochs, which have contributed most to the development
of present-day civilization in this country. Beside each is a tablet, decorated
with palms, on which is inscribed the name of the
country typified, and below this, on a continuous
banderole or streamer, is the name of some chief or
typical contribution of that country to the sum of
human excellence. The figures follow each other in
chronological order, beginning, appropriately enough,
at the East, the East being the cradle of civilization.
The list is as follows : Egypt, typifying Written Rec-
ords ; Judea, Religion ; Greece, Philosophy ; Rome,
Administration ; Islam, Physics ; The Middle Ages,
Modern Languages ; Italy, the Fine Arts ; Germany,
the Art of Printing ; Spain, Discovery ; England, Liter-
ature ; France, Emancipation ; and America, Science.
Each figure is winged, as representing an ideal, but
the wings, which overlap each other regularly through-
out, serve mainly to unite the composition in a con-
tinuous whole, and in no case have been allowed to
hamper the artist in his effort to make each figure
the picture of a living, breathing man or woman.
Four of the twelve figures, it will be observed, stand
out more conspicuously than the rest on account of
the lighter tone of their drapery Egypt, Rome,
Italy, and England. They occupy respectively the
east, south, west, and north points in the decoration,
and furnish another instance of the stress that has
been laid, throughout the Library, upon the four car-
dinal points of the compass which govern the axial
lines of the building, and which in turn have been enriched and dignified in
the final decorative scheme of the interior. Each of these axial figures is
painted in a more rigid attitude than those beside it, and forms, as will be
noticed, the centre of a triad, or group of three, each of the flanking figures
leaning more or less obviously toward it. It should be noted that there was
no intention on the part of the painter to magnify the importance of the four
figures thus represented over any of the others. The emphasis of color is
solely for decorative purposes. The arrangement being chronological, Mr.
Blashfield was unable to exercise much control over the order in which each
figure should occur, and still retain his original selection of countries.

Egypt is represented by a male figure clad in the waistcloth and cap with
lappets so familiar in the ancient monuments. The idea of Written Records




is brought out by the tablet he supports with his left hand, on which is inscribed
in hieroglyphics the cartouche or personal seal of Mena, the first recorded Egyp-
tian king ; and by the case of books at his feet, which is filled with manuscript
rolls of papyrus, the Egyptian paper. Besides the idea of Writing and Record-
ing, Mr. Blashfield brings out the fact that the Egyptians were among the first
who held the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. The figure holds in the
right hand the Tau, or cross with a ring head, the emblem of Me both in this
world and beyond it ; and on the tablet behind his feet is the winged ball, the
more familiar symbol of the same idea.

Judea is shown as a woman lifting her hands in an ecstatic prayer to Jehovah.
The over-garment which she wears falls partly away, and discloses the ephod,
which was a vestment worn by the high priests, ornamented with a jewelled
breastplate and with onyx shoulder clasps set in gold, on which were engraved

the names of the Twelve

Tribes of Israel. On the
face of a stone pillar set
beside her is inscribed, in
Hebrew characters, the
injunction, as found in
Leviticus, xix, 1 8 : Thou
shalt love thy neighbor as
thyself a sentence se-
lected as being perhaps
the noblest single text
contributed by the Jewish
race to the system of
modern morality. In her
lap is a scroll, containing,
presumably, a portion of
the Scriptures ; and at her
feet is a censer, typical of
the Hebrew ritualism.

The figure of Greece is
distinctly suggestive, so
far as attitude and drapery
are concerned, of one of
the beautiful little Tanagra

figures of terra-cotta so called from the ancient Greek town in which they
were first discovered which are so familiar to students of Greek art. A
bronze lamp is set beside her, and in her lap is a scroll the emblems of
wisdom. Her head is crowned with a diadem possibly with a reference to
the City of the Violet Crown, Athens, the Mother of Philosophy.

Rome, the second axial figure, wears the armor of a centurion, or captain in
a legion. A lion's skin, the mark of a standard-bearer, is thrown over him, the
head covering the top of his casque. The whole conception is that of the just
but inexorable administration of Rome founded upon the power of its arms.
One foot is planted upon the lower drum of a marble column, signifying sta-
bility. His right arm rests upon the fasces, or bundle of rods, the typical em-
blem of the Roman power and rule. In his right hand he holds the baton of



Islam is an Arab, standing for the Moorish race which introduced into Eu-
rope not only an improved science of Physics, as here used by Mr. Blashfield
in its older and less restricted sense but of mathematics and astronomy also.
His foots rests upon a glass retort, and he is turning over the leaves of a book
of mathematical calculations.

By the term Middle Ages, represented by the female figure which comes next
in the decoration, is usually understood the epoch beginning with the dissolution
of the Western Roman Empire in 455 and ending with the discovery of Amer-
ica in 1492. No single country is here indicated, for Europe was throughout
that period in a state of flux, so to say, in the movement of which the principal
modern languages were finally evolved from the Latin and Teutonic tongues.
But it was an epoch notable for many other things, also. The figure typifying
the epoch is distinguished by an expression at once grave and passionate, and
has a sword, casque and cuirass, emblematic of the great institution of Chivalry ;


a model of a cathedral, standing for Gothic Architecture, which was brought to
its greatest perfection in these thousand years ; and a papal tiara and the keys
of St. Peter, signifying mediaeval devotion and the power of the Church.

The next figure, Italy the Italy of the Renaissance is shown with sym-
bols of four of the Fine Arts which she represents Painting, Sculpture, Archi-
tecture, and Music. She holds a palette in her left hand, and with the brush
in her right seems about to lay another stroke of color on her canvas. To her
left is a statuette after Michael Angelo's celebrated David, in Florence. At her
feet is a Renaissance capital ; and leaning against the wall a violin, at once the
typical musical instrument and that in the manufacture of which the Italians

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Online LibraryHerbert SmallHandbook of the Library of Congress → online text (page 8 of 13)