Christian Petersen (Danish-American, 1885-1961)
All the Evils Which Have Kept Him Prisoner, c.1950
Pencil on paper
Gift of Charlotte Petersen to Special Collections, Iowa State University Library. Transferred to University Museums. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Christian Petersen Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM99.223
This drawing, probably a sketch for a war memorial, provided the theme for this exhibition on Christian Petersen’s works of art about war. He included in his drawing a depiction of his Christ with Bound Hands, a sculpture of 1945 which he clearly intended as a comment on war. In traditional Christian art, it is common to place a figure of Christ, or just a cross, atop a globe to symbolize Christ’s kingship of all creation. But the use of a bound Christ has
few, if any, precedents in this kind of image. At the base of the globe, Petersen has sketchily indicated three figures, all of whom are in active positions suggestive of supplication, despair, or any range of unsettled situations. His meaning might have been difficult to discern had he not taken the unusual (for him) step of scrawling at the bottom an inscription that clearly relates his sketch to his feelings about war. From his comments about Christ with Bound Hands, we know that he felt it was the evil behavior of humans, specifically when we engage in warfare, which have “bound” the hands of Christ. According to his daughter, Mary, Petersen believed that it was mankind who had bound Christ, and it was only mankind which could release him from his bonds; by doing so, we could regain our humanity. It is possible that Petersen’s war memorial was his way of imploring people to think of the teachings of Christ before they engaged in violence, aggression, or any other behavior that leads to war.