The figures of little boys on the staircase are known as “putti” in Italian Renaissance art and represent the various occupations and pursuits of contemporary American life when the Jefferson Building was completed in 1897.
• A musician, with a lyre by his side, studying the pages of a musical composition.
• A physician grinding drugs in a mortar, with a distilling vessel beside him and the serpent sacred to medicine.
• An electrician, with a burst of electric rays shining on his brow and a telephone receiver at his ear.
• An astronomer, with a telescope and a terrestrial globe, encircled by the signs of the zodiac that he is measuring by the aid of a pair of compasses.