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Joseph G. Cannon, by William T. Smedley, 1912

The House of Representatives purchased this portrait of its former Speaker in 1917.

Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

Joseph G. Cannon, by William T. Smedley, 1912

Art and Allegory: The Collection Grows

The Capitol continued its longstanding tradition of commissioning and buying artwork. The most significant addition was The Apotheosis of Democracy, a monumental sculptural group by Paul Wayland Bartlett placed in the House pediment in 1916.

To celebrate the Constitution’s 150th anniversary, Congress commissioned Howard Chandler Christy to paint a scene depicting the signing of the document. It was hung in the east grand stair of the House wing. The House of Representatives continued to acquire portraits of former Speakers, and the Senate commissioned vice presidential busts for its chamber. As the collection of state-donated statues in Statuary Hall grew to 65, its weight threatened to collapse the floor. In 1933, Congress authorized the display of some statues elsewhere in the building, distributing the collection—and its weight.