Originally the special reading room for the members of the House of Representatives and later the Council of Scholars Room, this room is used today by members of the United States Congress. It features 11-foot walls of oak paneling, wood carving in the arches over the doors, a beamed ceiling with paintings in the ceiling panels, fireplace mantels of Italian Siena marble at the north and south ends of the room, and mosaics over the mantels.
* This location is only available for viewing via the online tour.
North Fireplace's Mosaic Panel Representing Law
The north fireplace mantel is Siena marble with a cornice supported on columns of pavonazzo marble. In the center of the cornice is a cartouche of labradorite or Labrador spar. Frederick Dielman created the mosaic panel over the fireplace, which is approximately 7 1/2 feet wide and 3 feet 7 inches high. The mosaic represents Law with a young woman on a marble throne holding a sword in one hand to chastise the guilty and a palm branch in the other hand to reward the meritorious. Glory surrounds her head and on her breast is the aegis of Minerva, signifying she is clad in the armor of righteousness and wisdom. The scales of Justice, the book of Law, and a pair of white doves symbolizing mercy are on the steps.
The friends of Law are on one side of the throne. These figures include Industry with a wheel and hammer, Peace with an olive branch and crown, and Truth with lilies. The enemies of Law are on the other side. The old woman represents Fraud, the figure with disordered clothing and the serpent is Discord, and Violence wears a steel cap, holds a sword in one hand, and has a lighted torch lying on the ground before him. The friends of Law appear to be approaching History, while her enemies shrink from her presence.
South Fireplace's Mosaic Panel Representing History
Like the north fireplace, the mantel is of Siena marble with a cornice supported on columns of pavonazzo marble. The cartouche in the cornice is green onyx. The second of the pair of Frederick Dielman mosaics in this room, the south fireplace's mosaic represents History. The figure of History, in the mosaic's center, holds a pen and book. On both sides of her, there are tablets mounted in a marble wall with benches on either side of the tablets. The tablets contain the names of great historians: Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Livy, Tacitus, Baeda, Comines, Hume, Gibbon, Niebuhr, Guizot, Ranke, and the Americans, Bancroft, and Motley. At the foot of one of the tablets is a laurel wreath symbolizing peace, and at the foot of the second tablet is an oak wreath symbolizing war. A palm branch designating success rests against the wreaths and tablets.
The female figure on one side of History is Mythology. As the symbol of the theories of the universe, she holds a globe of the earth in her left hand. The Greeks' female sphinx to her right represents the eternally insoluble Riddle of the World. Tradition, the aged woman seated on the other side of History, represents medieval legend and folk tales. She is shown in the midst of relating her old wives' tales to the young boy seated before her. The distaff in her lap, the youth with a harp in his hand (a reference to the wandering minstrel of the Middle Ages), and the shield are reminders of a past age. The mosaic includes ancient buildings from the three nations of antiquity with highly developed histories: an Egyptian pyramid, a Greek temple, and a Roman amphitheater.
A long with the mosaic panel representing Law above the north fireplace, this mosaic was prepared in Venice, Italy and sent to the Jefferson Building to be put into place. Both mosaics were made of pieces, or tesserae, which were fitted together to provide subtle gradations in color.
The seven panels in the ceiling, decorated by Carl Gutherz, represent the Spectrum of Light. Each panel contains one of the spectrum's seven colors with a central figure representing human or divine achievement. There are two cherubs in each corner representing arts or sciences and eight escutcheons, one with the title of the decoration and the seals of states. These elements are combined into an elaborate scroll design.
Yellow Ceiling Panel Representing the Creation of Light
The yellow or central ceiling panel, the first color of the spectrum, depicts the Creation of Light. Divine Intelligence is enthroned in the midst of Space, enveloped with mist and clouds, and uttering the words "Let there be light." The cherubs represent Physics, Metaphysics, Psychology, and Theology.
Orange Ceiling Panel Representing the Light of Excellence
The orange panel, the second color of the spectrum, illustrates the Light of Excellence. Inspired by Longfellow's poem "Excelsior," Gutherz represented Excellence through a spirit standing midway on a pyramid of steps symbolizing Progress. She beckons to man to join her and holds in one hand the wreath which crowns Excellence's efforts. The cherubs represent Architecture and Sculpture, Transportation, the Phonograph and Telephone, and Invention and Design.
Red Ceiling Panel Representing the Light of Poetry
The red panel, the third color of the spectrum, represents the Light of Poetry. In the center of the panel, Poetry is mounted on Pegasus, holding a torch in one hand while reaching toward the light of the ideal. The background figures portray the afterglow of Tradition and Mythology. The cherubs depict Tragedy and Comedy, Lyric Poetry, Pastoral Poetry, and Fable.
Violet Ceiling Panel Representing the Light of State
The violet or fourth color of the spectrum, located closest to the south fireplace, is symbolized as the Light of State, specifically the United States. In the artist's conception, the United States is represented by the color violet, which results from the union of the American colors of red, white, and blue. The figure in the panel's center, located closest to the south fireplace, is Columbia, carrying a staff surmounted with a liberty cap, holding a shield of the United States flag, and with an eagle above her shoulder. The cherubs in the Violet panel symbolize Suffrage, Justice, Liberty, and Equality.
Green Ceiling Panel Representing the Light of Research
The green panel, the fifth panel of the spectrum, pictures the Light of Research. The central figure is Spirit of the Lens surrounded by the sea, which furnishes the forms of life for her investigations. The cherubs in the corners are associated with investigation and research. One of the corners' cherubs has a microscope. A second corner's cherubs represent Chemistry, a third Archaeology (Egyptology deciphering the hieroglyphics), and in the fourth, Mineralogy.
Blue Ceiling Panel Representing the Light of Truth
The blue panel, the sixth of the spectrum, represents the Light of Truth, with the blue background signifying light from darkness. The Spirit of Truth crushes the dragon of Ignorance and Falsehood underfoot. She reaches to heaven for a ray of light to inflict the final wound. The cherubs in the corners are involved in activities symbolizing the presence of a universal law, including holding a level, the plumb, and the Bible.
Indigo Ceiling Panel Representing the Light of Science
The ceiling panel closest to the north fireplace, and the last color of the spectrum, indigo, represents the Light of Science. The central figure signifies Astronomy exploring the movement of the stars. Astronomy is guided by the soul as symbolized in the butterfly above her head. The cherubs in the corner are involved in phases of astronomical study, including looking through a telescope, studying books, making calculations, and explaining the theory of mathematics as illustrated by one of the cherubs showing on the fingers of the hand that one is the unit of everything.
Lunette over North and South Entrance Doors
There are three entrance doors to the Members of Congress Room with carved oak lunettes over each by Charles Henry Niehaus. At the north door, the lunette contains a central cartouche with an owl and a figure of a seated youth on either side. The carved oak lunette over the south door duplicates the north door's lunette.
Lunette over Central Entrance Door
There are three entrance doors to the Members of Congress Room with carved oak lunettes over each by Charles Henry Niehaus. The carved oak lunette over the central door contains an American eagle flanked by two cherubs.
This light, one of 16 on the room's walls, combines the torch and classical wreath design. The Jefferson Building is surmounted by the torch of learning and variations on this theme are found throughout the building's interior. The tulip-shaped shades on the fixtures were not on the original lights. The Thomas Jefferson Building was the first public building constructed with electrical wiring in the city of Washington, and the light bulbs were proudly displayed without decorative shades.
Conference Table with Griffins
Originally located in the Senate Reading Room (now the Jefferson Congressional Reading Room), this massive table features griffins at each end supporting the table's top.
Desk and Chippendale Chair
This small desk, which has been restored, was originally located in the Senate Reading Room (now the Jefferson Congressional Reading Room). Only four of the original Chippendale chairs of this design from the Jefferson Building remain. All of the chairs have been restored and are located in the Members of Congress Room.