Where's the Art?

An important civic structure within the Judiciary Square neighborhood, the construction of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse included the commissioning of several prominent American artists to decorate the interior and exterior of the building with site specific works of art. Today, these works are cared for as part of the GSA Fine Arts Collection. Learn more about the artists and their art below.

Exterior Artwork

Trylon of Freedom

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

Trylon of Freedom

East of John Marshall Park, facing Pennsylvania Avenue, is Trylon of Freedom, a three-sided 24-foot granite monument designed by artist Carl Paul Jennewein that features bas relief representations of the freedoms exemplified by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The three-sided obelisk was carved from Somes Sound granite by Vincent Tonelli and Roger Morigi and installed in 1954.

The three sides symbolically represent the three branches of government: legislative, judicial and executive and depict guarantees offered by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The southwest side, for example, shows the freedoms of press, speech and religion. The southeast side, for example, shows 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.

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. Jennewein was a popular artist among architects because his ‘rhythmic and stylized forms worked well with architecture.' He oversaw the completion of an extensive sculptural program for the Department of Justice Building in Washington, DC and is best know for his polychromatic terracotta pediments at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In addition to 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.

Sir William Blackstone

(Exterior, southeast sidewalk at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 3rd Street)

Sir William Blackstone

Sir William Blackstone was an English jurist and legal historian whose writings influenced the creation of the U.S. Constitution. The scultpture 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. Mimicking other sculptures of the famous jurist, 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.

According to available sources, the sculpture was originally sent to England as intended. However, once there, it was discovered that the sculpture was much too large for the intended space and the gift was returned. Following its homecoming in 1943, the statue was donated to the U.S. government and installed in front of the 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


Artist Sidney Biehler Waugh was commissioned to create four figures representing historically significant lawgivers for the Ceremonial Courtroom in the U.S. Courthouse. Sculpted from white marble the four austere figures depict Hammurabi, Moses, Solon and Justinian and are mounted on the marble clad wall behind the judge's bench at the front of the courtroom.

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 his commission at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, Waugh completed other federal projects in the District of Columbia. These include a pair of eagles at the Federal Trade Commission Building, the Mellon Memorial Fountain, an aluminum sculpture at the Ariel Rios Federal Building (now William J. Clinton Federal Building) and bas reliefs at the National Archives Building.

Edwin C. Rust

Justice, Edwin C.Rust

Artist Edwin C. Rust was responsible for the creation of an extensive bronze bas relief program to decorate the interior of the Courthouse. His work includes six bronze relief panels for the Circuit Court of Appeals depicting Justice, Authority, John Marshall, Sir William Blackstone, King Alfred and Joseph Storey. He was also responsible for Holidays and Seasons of the Year, a repeating series of 13 square bas reliefs that are mounted on 22 courtroom doors throughout the many floors of the courthouse.

Born on December 5, 1910 in Hammonton, CA, Rust studied at Cornell University and later earned a BFA from Yale University. 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: 2021-09-02