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Detail of Corbel Carving in New York State Capitol, c. 1890

Detail Work in New York State Capitol

New York State Library, MSC_PRI3199_14
New York State Library, MSC_PRI3199_14_1
Document Description
Photograph of Corbel on State Capitol Building. c. 1890.
Who probably designed this carving?
What do you see in this carving other than a man's face?
What do you think this carving symbolizes?
Why would this figure be carved into the staircase?
Why do you think the carving of the African American man includes a broken chain?
If you were in charge of the stone carvers on the Eastern Approach, what would you carve into the staircase?
Historical Challenges
There are seventy-seven steps on the Eastern Approach to the New York State Capitol. What else are there seventy-seven of in the Capitol? Is there a connection between the two?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: The front staircase at the New York State Capitol extends 166 feet 7 inches from the building. If each step were equal in length, how many inches long would each step be?
Science: Research which animals were carved into the Eastern Approach. Where do these animals live?
Art: Draw a picture to symbolize literature, science, or art.
Kennedy, William. The Capitol in Albany. New York: Aperture, 1986. ISBN: 0893812099
Roseberry, Cecil R. Capitol Story. Albany: New York State Office of General Services, 1982.
Thrane, Susan W., and Tom Patterson. State Houses: America's 50 State Capitol Buildings. Erin, Ontario: Boston Mills Press, 2005. ISBN: 1550464574

Historical Context
Construction of the front staircase that serves as the Eastern Approach to the New York State Capitol Building began in 1891, long after other parts of the Capitol had been completed.  This grand, seventy-seven-step staircase was designed by Isaac Perry in the Romanesque style.  It is made of white granite from Maine and has some of the finest granite carvings in the country.  

A talented stone carver, John Francis Brines, was placed in charge of the carvers on this staircase.  He designed the carvings on the Eastern Approach to symbolize American life.  The two most elaborate carvings are "Plenty" and "Progress."  Other figures carved into the staircase represent literature, science, and art.  An American Indian and an African American man with a broken chain can be found among the carvings.  In addition, many animals native to the United States can be found on the staircase.

Essential Question
How is architecture influenced by a society's values and culture?
Check for Understanding
Describe the object in the photograph and determine the influence of culture on the design.