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Monday, January 6, 2014

Rotunda Pendentives - Monday Mural goes to the Madison Capitol Building

Between the four arches in the Capitol rotunda are pendentives, which make the transition from the octagonal form of the rotunda to the circular form of the dome. The four pendentives of the rotunda are decorated with four panels of glass mosaic works designed by Kenyon Cox, for a total cost of $20,000. Kenyon Cox, born in Warren Ohio, (1856 - 1919) was an important American painter, draughtsman and art critic. He also painted murals for the Library of Congress and the Capitols of Iowa and Minnesota, as well as a mural in the Senate Chamber of the Madison Capitol.

Cox's mosaic panels are twelve feet high and have an average length of twenty-four feet. Each mosaic consists of approximately 100,000 pieces of glass tile and represents Wisconsin's three branches of government (the legislative, the executive and the judicial) and liberty - the foundation of all power in a free country. 

 "Justice" is represented by a young woman seated in a lion throne, who tests the scales in the balance to demonstrate the purely judicial function of weighing one cause against the other.

"Legislation" is represented as a powerful older man with a long beard who holds a stylus in his right hand and is seated by a sphinx symbol of wisdom.

 A young man holding a leading staff in his right hand while his left hand rests upon a great sword represents "Government"- the executive power.

 "Liberty" is represented as a young woman wearing the traditional Phrygian cap of red, but is otherwise dressed in two shades of green, the color of youth and hope. Her right hand guards the ballot box while her left hand points upward. 

                                               “. . . art is not a luxury, it is a civilization.” Kenyon Cox, The Nation, 1889

The mosaics were done so well that I wasn't convinced they weren't painted at first.  For more murals check out Monday Mural.  More on the Capitol tomorrow!


  1. You know so was I untill you pointed it out. Superb work and thanks for taking us round

  2. Love the murals! Hard to believe they are glass mosaics and not painted.

  3. These are really beautiful! I love seeing other capitolbuildings.

  4. Beautiful ... and a nice addition to Mural Monday ... need to get back to that one of these days.

  5. That is a beautiful and colorful capitol.

  6. These are fabulous. So beautiful and intricate. You have to wonder how he figured out the correct proportions given that the pendentives are so far above the viewer. Once again I am in awe of the artistic mind. Thank you for contributing to this week's Monday Mural.

  7. Fantastic shots of awesome interiors!