Statue of Freedom, Bonded Marble
Armed Freedom, a statue depicting the Goddess of Freedom, crowns the dome of the United States Capitol. The statue, which has come to be known as the Statue of Freedom, portrays the goddess dressed in flowing robes, her right hand upon the hilt of a sheathed sword, her left hand holding a laurel wreath of victory and a shield with thirteen stripes. Her head is covered by a helmet encircled with stars and surmounted by a crest composed of an eagle’s head and feathers. Her robes are secured by a broach inscribed “U.S.” and she stands atop a globe encircled by the words E Pluribus Unum.
Few details are available about the inception of this remarkable work of American art. The artist, Thomas Crawford, sometime between 1855 and 1856, received “an invitation” from Captain Montgomery Meigs, chief engineer of the Capitol, to design the statue. Crawford, one of the foremost American sculptors of his time, had already been commissioned by Meigs to design other works in the Capitol, the most notable of which is the pediment on the Senate wing, which portrays the emergence of the great civilization of America triumphant over a barbaric way of life.
In 1855 Crawford was at work on the doors for the entrance to the House and Senate wings of the Capitol; but before the doors were completed, the artist had begun sketching an allegorical figure of “Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace.” His sketch eventually resulted in the nineteen-foot bronze figure that stands upon the Capitol dome.
Though the particular impetus of inspiration for Armed Freedom is not known, Crawford, in general, was a highly inspired artist. He is reported to have kept a room above his studio full of small clay sketches and sculptural ideas that came to him while he was working on larger projects.
“The flow of his ideas was of such force and insistence that he often had to stop work on his monuments to dash off these little models. Sculptural ideas seemed ‘to rise spontaneously and intuitively at Crawford’s bidding. He hit off his marble epics as a poet would turn a graceful stanza,’” wrote historian Albert Gardner. And he himself wrote, “I regret that I have not a hundred hands to keep pace with the workings of my mind.”
• Bonded Marble
• Height: 9 inches
• Weight: 2 lbs.