Christian Petersen (Danish-American, 1885-1961)
Winged Victory, c.1920s
Featured in: From Time Immemorial (Neva M. Petersen Gallery)
Purchased by 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. UM99.70
These small metal objects are typical of Petersen’s works from early in his career. He worked in the commercial jewelry and metal design industry in Attleboro, Massachusetts, often designing commemorative medals such as Winged Victory. He was a die-cutter, carving his designs directly into steel or similar metals from which molds could be made. The process is partly shown through the medal and then the carved hub of Doughboy of World War II, shown nearby. Though his skills were highly regarded, and he earned a handsome living, Petersen was discontent with commercial design and soon tried to leave it behind and establish himself as a sculptor. He had been trained in the vocational schools of Newark, New Jersey, but by 1910 he had begun enrolling in classes at fine arts schools such as the Art Students League in New York and the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.
General Jackson is a small scale replica of the famous equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson by Clark Mills (1810-1883). Mills, an academically untrained American sculptor, was the first to successfully engineer and execute a bronze design of a figure astride a rearing horse. This sculpture, Andrew Jackson, was placed to great acclaim in Lafayette Park across from the White House in 1852. The state of Tennessee commissioned another casting of the statue to honor its most famous citizen (Jackson was the seventh president of the United States from 1829-1837) for its capitol grounds, where it can still be seen today. The handle of the spoon is inscribed “Nashville Tenn” and was probably commissioned as a high-end souvenir to commemorate one of Nashville’s favorite sons.
Winged Victory is also a replica of a well known work of art, the Greek Nike of Samothrace (4th century BCE), now found at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Nike was the Greek goddess of victory and a messenger for both Zeus, the king of the gods, and Athena, the goddess of war; she presided over all competitions, including athletic ones, but was most closely associated with triumph in war. The foliage that ornaments the upper portion of Petersen’s medal are probably laurel leaves, another symbol of victory. The medal has no inscriptions so it is not known for what purpose Petersen created it. The classical styling of this figure was applied to other works related to war, especially Petersen’s Spanish-American War Memorial of 1923.