TITLE

"Unenlightened by a single ray from antiquity": John Quincy Adams and the Design of the Pediment for the United States Capitol

AUTHOR(S)
Verheyen, Egon
PUB. DATE
September 1996
SOURCE
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Fall96, Vol. 3 Issue 2, p208
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
The role of President John Quincy Adams (1825-29) as a patron of the arts and as the person responsible for the sculptural program of the United States Capitol has largely gone unnoticed. Adams had studied more works of art than any other president before him, and his knowledge of the arts was at least equal to that of Jefferson. In 1825, when a competition for the design of the main pediment of the Capitol yielded no acceptable proposal, Adams--at first involuntarily--got involved in the design process and eventually determined the features of a pediment celebrating the American Constitution. No ancient or modem models existed on which Adams and his advisors could have drawn. While classical forms prevail, their iconography is uniquely American, emphasizing a relationship between the individual figures that is allegorical and literal--and consequently difficult to read and easily misunderstood. Adams was aware of that fact and suggested an explanatory inscription that was never carried out. Crawford's pediment for the Senate wing of the Capitol overcame the problems facing Adams by discarding allegories and concentrating on "telling a story."
ACCESSION #
9710240781

 

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