The series of murals in the lunettes in the north gallery by artist Charles Sprague Pearce (1851–1914) illustrates the phases of a pleasant and well-ordered life. The scenes represent the kind of idyllic existence often imagined by poets, in which people live in an innocent, simple, and untroubled society where they begin to develop the attributes of a more refined civilization.
The largest and summary mural at the far end depicts The Family. In a wooded valley bounded by high mountains figures are gathered at the mouth of a cave. At the center is the figure of the head of the household, who is being welcomed home by his family after a day spent hunting. His wife holds out their infant son and their young daughter clings to him. On the left his aged father lays aside a scroll he has been reading and on the right the seated figure of his mother clasps the head of her staff while an older daughter leans against a tree.
In each of the smaller lunettes the artist depicts simple occupations and relaxations which are characteristic of family life. The murals along one side depict Religion, Labor, Study, and Recreation. The single mural in a lunette on the stairhall side depicts Rest.
The penetrations in the vault of Pearce’s corridor contain the names of distinguished educators: Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852), Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827), Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), John Amos Comenius (1592–1670), Roger Ascham (c. 1515–1568), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801–1876), Thomas Gallaudet 1787–1851), Horace Mann (1796–1859), Thomas Arnold 1795–1842), and Herbert Spencer (1820–1903).
Photography by Carol M. Highsmith.