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Bas-reliefs United States House of Representatives

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The Relief Portraits of Lawgivers depict historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principles that underlie American law.


The 23 marble relief portraits over the gallery doors of the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol depict historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principles that underlie American law. They were installed when the chamber was remodeled in 1949-1950. Created in bas relief of white Vermont marble by seven different sculptors, the plaques each measure 28 inches in diameter.


Map of portraits in the House Chamber. Click on the image above to enlarge.

The 11 profiles in the eastern half of the chamber face left and the eleven in the western half face right, so that all look towards the full-face relief of Moses in the center of the north wall.

The subjects of the reliefs were chosen by scholars from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia Historical Society of Washington, D.C., in consultation with authoritative staff members of the Library of Congress. The selection was approved by a special committee of five Members of the House of Representatives and the Architect of the Capitol.

The plaster models for these reliefs are on display on the walls in the Rayburn House Office Building subway terminal.


Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Third President of the United States. Wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom.
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Napoleon I (1769-1821) Emperor of France. Appointed a commission to draw up the Code Civil, a combination of tradition and Roman law that influenced the legal systems of European and American states during the 19th century.
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Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780) English jurist. Professor of common law at Oxford; author of Commentaries on the Laws of England, which had considerable influence on the importation and adaptation of English common law in America.
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Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) Dutch statesman. Advocate-General of Holland and Zeeland; author of On the Law of War and Peace, the first treatise on international law.
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Simon de Montfort (1200-1265) English statesman. Advocated representative government; established an early form of representative government in England.
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Innocent III (1161-1216) Medieval pope. Student of canon and civil law, who, like Gregory IX, preserved the remnants of Roman law during the Dark Ages.
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Suleiman (1494-1566) Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Reformed and improved civil and military codes; united a group of unstable territories into an empire.
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Maimonides (1135-1204) Jewish philosopher of Cordova, Spain. Compiled a systematic exposition of the whole of Jewish law as contained in the Pentateuch and in Talmudic literature.
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Gaius (c. 110-180) Roman jurist. Author of numerous works, the most noted being the Institutes, a complete exposition of the elements of Roman law that were the foundation of Roman civil law.
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Papinian (c. 146-212) Roman jurist. Author of fifty-six books about legal questions and decisions, extracts from which were influential in the development of the Justinian Code.
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Solon (c. 638-559 B.C.) Athenian statesman. Author of constitutional and legal reforms.
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Moses (c. 1350-1250 B.C.) Hebrew prophet and lawgiver. Transformed a wandering people into a nation; received the Ten Commandments.
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Hammurabi (fl. c. 1792-1750 B.C.) King of Babylonia. Author of the Code of Hammurabi, which is recognized in legal literature as one of the earliest surviving legal codes.
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Lycurgus (c. 900 B.C.) Semimythical Greek legislator. Traditional author of laws and institution of Sparta.
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Tribonian (c. 500-547) Byzantine jurist. Head of the commission that codified the laws under Justinian I.
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Justinian I (c. 483-565) Byzantine emperor. Appointed Tribonian to compile and consolidate the Roman legal code into the Justinian Code, which he supplemented with a collection of rulings and precedents.
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Saint Louis (1214-1270) King Louis IX of France. Author of the Mise of Amiens, a judgment on a dispute between Henry III and rebellious English barons.
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Gregory IX (c. 1147-1241) Medieval pope. Author of a compilation of decretals (i.e., authoritative decisions) on canon law; during a critical period he was instrumental in maintaining the remnants of Roman law.
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Alfonso X, the "Wise" (1221-1284) King of León and Castile. Author of the Royal Code, a compilation of local legislation for general use. Originator of The Seven Parts, the code used as a basis for Spanish jurisprudence
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Edward I (1239-1307) King of England. Founded the parliamentary constitution of England. Eliminated the divisive political effects of the feudal system.
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Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) French finance minister and controller general under Louis XIV. Codified commercial, maritime, and colonial ordinances; reformed the French legal system.
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Robert Joseph Pothier (1699-1772) French jurist; author of the Digest of Pandects of Justinian, a classic study of Roman law; author of several treatises on French law, which were incorporated in the French Code Civil.
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