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Richard Upjohn designed the State Capitol with 26 gothic niches for full-length figure statues, seventeen tympana for relief narrative scenes and many uncarved round projecting bosses intended to be carved as projecting medallion portrait heads. Upjohn envisioned the building as a platform for a sculptural narrative of Connecticut history in the same way that the great gothic cathedrals of medieval Europe had been sculptural depictions of biblical stories. Upjohn, however, did not designate the program for the sculpture.

Paul Wayland Bartlett was the artist who formulated the program about 1900  taking into account two earlier full length statues already made by Chauncey Ives for the East side. Bartlett called for each façade to have a general era and theme reflecting important events and people in Connecticut history. The North side is devoted to the Founders of the Connecticut Colony; the East side is dedicated to the later colonial period and the American Revolutionary War period; the West to Connecticut’s law givers in the new federation of the United States; and the South side was to be reserved for the recent heroes and leaders during the American War Between the States. The full sculptural program was never completed, so there remain some empty niches. Most of the portrait heads in roundels were never realized. However, even the partially realized program makes the Connecticut State Capitol the most concentrated site of high quality public art in the capital city. The Capitol is also Connecticut’s most important open-air sculpture museum and is a national landmark.

When the building was completed, an allegorical statue of the Genius of Connecticut stood at the top of the gold dome (the present figure is a copy and the original plaster model is displayed inside the Capitol lobby under the rotunda). The statue showed a woman holding a wreath of Mountain Laurel, state flower of Connecticut, with wings to symbolize the protection of Connecticut. Surrounding the drum of the dome are allegories of virtues.

The Sculptors: The state choose America’s leading sculptors to contribute to the enrichment of the narrative of Connecticut history on the Capitol. Randolph Rogers designed the Genius of Connecticut while John Quincy Adams Ward did the allegories for the drum of the dome. Paul Wayland Bartlett, who also later did the pediment of the US Senate in Washington and the equestrian Statue of General Lafayette nearby, was a major contributor.