A mainstay of the Senate’s fine art is the Vice Presidential Bust Collection. The Joint Committee on the Library, acting under a resolution of May 13, 1886, began commissioning busts of the vice presidents to occupy the niches in the new Senate Chamber. After the first busts filled the 20 niches that surround the Chamber, new additions were placed throughout the Senate wing of the Capitol. The collection chronicles the individuals who have served as vice president and pays tribute to their role as president of the Senate. It also provides a unique survey of American sculpture from the 19th century to the present.
The initial five commissions included busts of the first two vice presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and three former vice presidents then living, Hannibal Hamlin, William Wheeler, and Chester A. Arthur. As directed by the resolution of 1886, additional representations were added to the collection until the twenty existing gallery niches in the Senate chamber had been filled. The original resolution was amended on January 6, 1898, in order to provide for placement of additional vice presidential busts throughout the Senate wing of the Capitol.
The Vice Presidential Bust Collection contains works by such premier American artists as Daniel Chester French, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Franklin Simmons, and James Earle Fraser.