Where's the Art?

Prominent American original works of art are installed in the Elijah Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse--all of which are a part of our GSA Fine Arts collection. These site specific works were commissioned, or intended for the spaces which they occupy now.

Trylon of Freedom

(Exterior, Constitution Avenue Plaza between 3rd and 4th Streets)

A three-sided, 24-foot granite triangular monument by Carl Paul Jennewein features bas relief representations of the freedoms exemplified by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Two sides represent guarantees offered by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The third side exhibits the seal of the United States, with portions of the Preamble of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence inscribed.

The three sides symbolically represent the three branches of government: legislative, judicial and executive. The southwest side, for example, shows the freedoms of press, speech and religion. The southeast side shows the trial by jury, the lawyer counseling his defendant, and a wharf depicting the elimination of illegal search and seizure. The north side shows the Great Seal of the U.S. superimposed on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Trylon and courthouse dedication took place in 1954.

Prettyman advocated for the installment of the triangular 24-foot high monument, Trylon of Freedom, in front of the courthouse. Sculpture by 1954, the monument features excerpts and scenes from the nation’s founding documents.

East of John Marshall Park, facing Pennsylvania Avenue, is the Trylon of Freedom, which stands in a small, roughly triangular public space south of the Prettyman Federal Courthouse. The three-sided granite obelisk, 24 feet in height, was designed by Carl Paul Jennewein and installed in 1954. It was carved from Somes Sound granite by Vincent Tonelli and Roger Morigi. The southwest side facing the White House depicts the freedoms of press, speech and religion and the southeast facet facing the Capitol depicts the right to trial by jury. Decorating the north side, facing the courthouse itself, is the seal of the United States and portions of the Preamble of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The trylon stands on a paved plaza surrounded by low planters and plots of grass.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1890, Carl Paul Jennewein maintained an active professional career as a painter and sculptor, and served as a member of the American Academy in Rome and the Architectural League of New York.  In addition to the trylon, his other notable works include, Cupid and Gazelle at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and Portrait of a Child in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Jennewein became a popular artist among building designers because his ‘rhythmic and stylized forms worked well with architecture.’  He provided decorative reliefs for the Justice Building in Washington, DC and is most noted from his polychromatic terracotta sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (circa 1930).

Sir William Blackstone

(Exterior, Southeast Sidewalk at the Intersection of Constitution Avenue and 3rd Street)

Blackstone was an English jurist and legal historian whose writings influenced the U.S. Constitution. The work was commissioned by the American Bar Association as a commemorative gift to their British counterparts in 1923.  The ABA hired Paul W. Bartlett, a famed American sculptor who was trained in Paris by Emmanuel Frémiet at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and later by Auguste Rodin. Bartlett designed the bronze statue circa 1923 in his realistic style. Blackstone wears a long robe and holds a law book across his chest.  The provenience of this statue, and whether it is indeed the original cast by Bartlett or later version, is somewhat disputed.

The statue was installed upon a simple stone pedestal, minimally inscribed with Blackstone, in 1943 in its original location in front of old U.S. Court of Appeals Building on Judiciary Square. The bronze was relocated in 1953 to its current site at the southeast corner of the Prettyman Courthouse.

Interior Artwork

Sidney Biehler Waugh

Sidney Biehler Waugh designed four figures (each approximately 4’6’’ tall) to represent four historically significant lawgivers: Hammurabi, Moses, Solon and Justinian. The Commission of Fines Arts approved these figures for the Ceremonial Courtroom.  Each figure was mounted on a marble cladding behind the judges’ bench.

Born on January 17, 1904 in Amherst, MA, Sidney Biehler Waugh studied at Amherst College, MIT, the École des Beaux-Arts, and the American Academy in Rome.  Among his numerous honors, Waugh received the Prix de Rome, the Croix de Guerre (French Government), a Bronze Star, and the Knight of the Crown of Italy; he also served as a member of New York City’s Century Association, a sophisticated men’s club for artists and architects. 

Waugh’s work may be seen in the New York Museum of Modern Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Toledo Museum of Art.  In addition, to art for the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, Waugh’s has other federal commissions in the District of Columbia.  They include sculptures at the Federal Trade Commission Building, the Department of Justice Building, the Mellon Memorial Fountain, the U.S. Post Office Building, the Ariel Rios Federal Building (now William J. Clinton Federal Building) and the National Archives Building.

Edwin C. Rust

Edwin C. Rust created six bronze relief plaques for the Circuit Court of Appeals Court Rooms; these depicted Justice, Authority, John Marshall, Sir William Blackstone, King Alfred and Joseph Storey.

Born on December 5, 1910 in Hammonton, CA, Rust studied at Cornell University and later earned a BFA from Yale University.  Besides being a member of the Memphis Academy of Art, he also served as a professor at the College of William and Mary.  In addition to the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, Rust completed work for the College of William and Mary, the St. Regis Hotel in New York, the Memphis Public Library, Memphis State University, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Mississippi.  

GSA Fine Art Collection

The GSA Fine Arts Program manages the collection of fine art found throughout executive branch federal buildings in order to ensure its safety, accessibility, preservation, and appropriate use in order to enhance and promote high-quality work environments for federal agencies and the public they serve. The Fine Arts Collection is one of our nation's oldest and largest public art collections. It consists of permanently installed and moveable mural paintings, sculptures, architectural or environmental works of art, and works on paper dating from 1850 to the present. These civic works of art are in federal buildings and courthouses across the United States. In addition, more than 20,000 small moveable New Deal works of art are on long-term loan to museums and other nonprofit institutions. Maintained by GSA as a part of our national and cultural heritage, the Fine Arts Collection serves as a reminder of the important tradition of individual creative expression.

Last Reviewed 2016-06-30