There's a lot to be admired about the new House History website. If you're into this sort of thing, the site has biographies of every member in the chamber's history, online exhibits, documentaries, and an index of Capitol art. The page serves as an online museum, without lines or screaming kids.
But like a great many museums, a search through its collection reveals a mystery. For the sake of amusement, let's call it "The Case of the Missing Pelosi."
For every speaker of the House, there is a corresponding oil painting. Henry Clay, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, and John Boehner all have portraits of themselves immortalized on canvas. They're large and lifelike, and are filled with totems of the speakers' careers. There's only one missing, and it's Nancy Pelosi. Granted, the site displays a photograph of the former speaker. But that's just not the same, right?
As an inquiry to the House curator's office reveals, House committees can set up portrait-fund commissions (with approval from the House Fine Arts Board) to solicit donations for paintings of committee chairs. We the people don't pay for these portraits; interest groups and private donors do. For instance, according to CQ Roll Call, in 2008 Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis raised $24,300 for a representation of his likeness.