Letter to the Editor,
Portraits in U.S. House
During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress on March 3, 2015 he mentioned the image of Moses – Hebrew prophet and lawgiver.
He stated, “Facing me right up there in the gallery, overlooking all of us in this chamber is the image of Moses. Moses led our people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land. And before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel, Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years. I leave you with his message today, "Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them.''
There are 23 marble relief portraits over the gallery doors of the in the which depict historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principles that underlie American law.
The portraits were installed when the chamber was remodeled in 1949-1950.
Among the portraits are two Americans: George Mason - American political leader and Thomas Jefferson - Third President of the United States.
Four from France: Robert Joseph Potheir - Jurist, Jean Baptiste Colbert - Finance Minister and Controller General, Saint Louis - King and Napoleon I -Emperor.
Three from England: Edward I - King, Simon de Montfort - Statesman and Sir William Blackstone - Jurist.
Two from the Byzantine Empire: Justinian I - Emperor and Tribonian - Jurist.
Two from the Roman Empire: Papinian and Gaius, both Jurists.
Two from Spain: Alfonso X – King and Maimonides – Jewish philosopher.
Two Popes: Gregory IX and Innocent III.
Also Hugo Grotius – Dutch Statesman, Lycurgus - Semimythical Greek legislator, Hammurabi – King of Babylonia, Solon – Athenian statesman, and Suleiman – Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
The eleven 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. Moses who transformed a wandering people into a nation and received the Ten Commandments is given this preeminent honor in our country’s legislative chamber.
Marian Casillas, Ed.D.