Constructed under the successive architectural direction of William Thornton, Benjamin H. Latrobe, and Charles Bulfinch, the Capitol was structurally complete when John Quincy Adams became President, but it lacked artistic and sculptural detail. Adams formed the first federal art commission and summoned the members to Washington to select models and designs for the tympanum of the central east entrance of the Capitol, but the group failed to do so. He then suggested his own design, and this was carved in stone by the Italian artist Luigi Persico. Adams also ran a competition for figures in the pediment of this eastern, or principal, portico, and Persico won with his design. In 1828 when Charles Francis Adams examined the completed tympanum and pediment he remarked, perhaps not altogether with an unbiased eye, that “The effect of them struck me very much, and on the whole, I have the impression that the front is as beautiful a specimen of modern architecture as any in the world. The figures are large, and seem remarkably well finished, particularly the figure of Justice and the Eagle which I particularly admired” (see p. 301
). See Glenn Brown, History of the United States Capitol,
2 vols., Washington, 1900–1903, and Wilhelmus B. Bryan, A History of the National Capital,
2 vols., New York, 1914. The illustration is from the original design of the architect Latrobe and was published in January 1825 at R. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, 101 Strand, London.