Presiding over the Library of Congress from a central position is Minerva, the Roman Goddess of learning and wisdom. In this mosaic by Elihu Vedder (1836–1923), she is portrayed as the Minerva of Peace and appears as the guardian of civilization with her armor partly laid aside.
Her attention is directed to an unfolded scroll that she holds in her left hand on which is written a list of various fields of learning, such as Architecture, Law, Statistics, Sociology, Botany, Biography, Mechanics, Philosophy, Zoology, etc.
A small statue of Nike, a representation of victory or achievement, similar to those erected by ancient the Greeks to commemorate success in battle, stands next to Minerva. The figure is a winged female standing on a globe and holding out a laurel wreath (victory) and palm branch (peace) to the victors.
On Minerva’s right is an owl, symbolizing wisdom, perched upon the post of a low parapet.
In the sky the clouds of disaster and discouragement are rolled away, and the sun begins to emerge.
Although Minerva’s shield and helmet have been laid upon the ground, the goddess still holds a long, two-headed spear, showing that she never relaxes her vigilance.
Beneath the mosaic is an inscription from Ars Poetica by Horace (65–8 B.C.): “Nil invita Minerva, quae monumentum aere perennius exegit,” (Not unwilling, Minerva raises a monument more lasting than bronze).