This marble bust of sculptor Thomas Crawford by Tommaso Gagliardi was purchased for the Capitol in 1871 for $100. The Joint Committee on the Library bought the work from Hannah Denmead, whose family owned a stonecutting studio in Washington, D.C., at Maryland Avenue and Second Street, N.E. The Denmeads apparently acquired the bust when Gagliardi departed the city for Italy in the late 1850s.
Born in Rome, Gagliardi was apprenticed to the sculptor Pietro Tenerani (a pupil of Antonio Canova) and was briefly employed by Thomas Crawford in Italy. Gagliardi immigrated to the United States for political reasons, arriving in 1855. Work was just beginning on the extension to the U.S. Capitol, and Gagliardi found employment for three years carving statuary designed by Crawford for the Senate wing. This is certainly the period when Crawford’s bust was created, possibly following the master sculptor’s untimely death in 1857.
Some of Gagliardi’s contemporaries disputed his ability as a carver, although the bust of Crawford would seem to discount these detractors. Ironically, Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, superintendent of the Capitol extension, recalled in his journal that Crawford himself had written to him about Gagliardi. According to Meigs, Crawford called Gagliardi “nothing but a rougher-out” and “no more fit to finish a statue than he is to be President of the United States.”  However, Lot Flannery, an American sculptor who worked with Gagliardi at the Capitol, described him in a 1910 letter as “a tiger in marble cutting.”
Gagliardi returned to Europe shortly after his time at the Capitol. He later founded a school of sculpture in Tokyo, where his discovery of an important quarry earned him the Japanese government’s gratitude. Gagliardi maintained a close friendship with the Piccirilli brothers, successful New York carvers, and through them secured a number of important commissions worldwide. He traveled extensively in Asia, was remembered as a “brilliant conversationalist,” and ended his days at ease in a Tuscan villa. 
1. Montgomery C. Meigs, Capitol Builder: The Shorthand Journals of Montgomery C. Meigs, 1853-1859, 1861, edited by Wendy Wolff (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2001), 323.
2. Charles E. Fairman, Art and Artists of the Capitol of the United States of America (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1927), 269.