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Joe Biden's Oval Office: what changes has the new president made?

Luke Harding
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP</span>
Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

The Oval Office has long symbolised the power and grandeur of the US presidency, and incoming White House incumbents traditionally change the decor to reflect the tone of their administration.

Joe Biden has unveiled the new ceremonial backdrop to his administration, marking a number of significant changes from that of his predecessor.

Curtains

Biden kept the curtains that hung during Donald Trump’s administration and had previously been used during Bill Clinton’s presidency. The carpet, taken from storage, is a darker blue than the Trump model.

Joe Biden in the newly decorated Oval Office.
Joe Biden in the newly decorated Oval Office with darker gold curtains. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Cesar Chavez bust

Immediately behind Biden is a bust of Cesar Chavez, the civil rights activist and leftwing labour leader. Other busts on display include Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Park, Eleanor Roosevelt and Robert F Kennedy. One prominent head from the Trump era has been taken away: Winston Churchill’s.

A bust of the civil rights leader Rosa Parks
A bust of the civil rights leader Rosa Parks Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP
A bust of Cesar Chavez.
A bust of Cesar Chavez. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Benjamin Franklin portrait

On the right of the picture is a painting of Benjamin Franklin, a founding father and consummate all-rounder. The portrait represents Biden’s interest in science and hangs near a bookshelf with a chunk of moon rock.

In another piece of symbolism, Biden has removed the portrait of Andrew Jackson, the US’s populist seventh president, whose white nationalist views foreshadowed Trump’s own. Directly in front of Biden, and out of shot, is a massive portrait of Franklin D Roosevelt.

Roosevelt is joined by the former president Thomas Jefferson and former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton, together with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Graphic

Resolute desk

Piled up on the famous Resolute desk are a heap of executive orders in green folders, signed on Wednesday by Biden. They mark a tearing up of Trump’s legacy and include a decision to rejoin the Paris climate treaty and the World Health Organization.

Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute desk.
Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute desk. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Pens

Presidents have traditionally used multiple pens to sign significant legislation. These are then given to key individuals as souvenirs. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr – whose busts are now in the Biden Oval Office – both received pens from Lyndon Johnson when Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act

A bust of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
A bust of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Family photos

On an ornate table behind the president are various family photographs, including a framed picture of Biden’s late and much-missed son, Capt Beau Biden. Also visible is the president’s mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan, as well as the first lady, Dr Jill Biden, and their three children, plus other family members. Oh, and a snap of Biden, a Catholic, meeting Pope Francis.

Harry Truman

On the table to the right is a bust of the former president Harry Truman, Roosevelt’s successor and another one-time vice-president who made it to the top job.

A bust of former President Harry Truman.
A bust of former President Harry Truman. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP