Only a Few Originals Remain

Pietro Mezzara is best known for the sculpted figures he created for public buildings. Born in France to an Italian family, Mezzara came to California in 1850 to mine for gold. By 1857, he had a studio in San Francisco where he made cameos, medallions, and portrait busts.

Mezzara created the statuary for the Capitol’s rooftop and pediment. Thirty figures, urns, and emblems adorned the Capitol in 1873.

The groups designed for the north and south porticos, and for flanking the frontoon [sic] will be each fourteen feet long by ten feet high. At the corner of the building will be placed statues eleven or twelve feet high, representing respectively “War,” “Peace,” “Prudence” and “Force,” and on the intervening pedestals between corners and centers will be placed and arrangad [sic] six statues seven feet high – “Fame,” “Eloquence” and “Verity” – and fourteen richly ornamented and figured vases from three and one-half to five and one-half feet high. All of these groups, statues and vases are to be cast in solid stone by the Pacific Stone Company . . . By the terms of these contracts the work is to be fully finished and in place before the adjournment of the next Legislature. The total cost of artist and mechanical work, materials and finishing, will be $34,500.

— Sacramento Daily Union, September 4, 1872

These elements were removed during the Capitol’s 1906 renovation and subsequently lost. Today, only the statuary on the west front pediment tympanum (the recessed space enclosed by the triangular pediment) is original. These statues reflect the Capitol’s roots in Greek architecture. In Grecian times statuary was considered part of the building, not mere decoration. It was a way to visually communicate epics and mythology in a largely illiterate society.

angel statue