Wings of the Morning [Plaster]

Dublin Core


Wings of the Morning [Plaster]


Animal sculpture--20th century
Figure sculpture, American--20th century


Wings of the Morning, 1969
1987 Plaster original

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall M. Fredericks

With the Leaping Gazelle of 1936, this sculpture brackets a half-century of creativity. The hand, symbolic of God, gives support or perhaps transport to the individual who is accompanied by two flying swans. The upward flowing contours communicate the optimistic spiritual content, or meaning of the sculpture. Fredericks was inspired by Psalm 139, verses 9-10;
"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me."

These verses are inscribed on the pedestal of the cast in the Sculpture Garden, as well as the pedestal of the bronze cast in the columbarium of Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

According to one of Fredericks' assistants, Molly Barth, he uses the swan to symbolize eternal life; a Nordic symbol of spirit. Swans can be seen in other sculptures in the Main Exhibit Gallery.


Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998


Use of this image requires permission from the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum





University Center (Mich.)

Sculpture Item Type Metadata

Physical Dimensions

56" x 48" x 60"


Plaster full-scale

Catalog Number


Object Location

Main Exhibit Gallery


1988 January, 24 Gift to Museum and SVSU Board of Control


From Jennifer Lentz (Collection Documentation Intern 1991-1992)
Memo dated September 25, 1991

"RE: Wings of the Morning

Molly told me that in 1970 a two-foot version was placed at the Birmingham First Presbyterian Church."

From Jennifer Lentz (Collection Documentation Intern 1991-1992)
Memo dated October 23, 1991

"RE: In 1970 there were two-foot versions placed at the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham and the First Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo. Mr. Fredericks also told me that in the past someone had mistakenly said the figure in the composition is an angel. He said it was a person. The verse from Psalms says "If "I" take the wings of the morning..."

Right hand: appears in phrase and means active divine power; in Christianity it is used to represent the blessing and intervention of God so as to avoid depicting him directly.
Angel with wings: spiritual intermediaries or intelligences between God and humanity.
Cherubim: (ones who pray) described as winged beings and usually a combination of four but sometimes 2 creatures (in this case swans).
Male figure: The psalm is of David, director of music.
Angels are common in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Two White Swans: represents discernment; sacred to the ancient Roman god Apollo and Celtic goddess Briged, both associated with music, poetry, and divination; symbol of happy death because it senses its demise and sings to welcome it; known for fidelity and faithful love-it takes one partner for life; symbol of the soul, eternity, and resurrection.

Molly Barth copy:
The next piece is titled "The Wings of the Morning." This is located at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It's a magnificent church, and this is located back behind the church in the columbarium. The title comes from Psalms, 139, "If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me and thy right hand shall hold me." Of course, you've got God's hand, the Angel and the two swans. As you go along through the Gallery, you will notice that Mr. Fredericks uses the swan in so many of his pieces; really, beginning in ancient times, the swan has been a symbol of eternal life. The figures were cast in bronze, and they're on a granite pedestal there at Kirk in the Hills, and also here in the Sculpture Garden, those were also donated to the Gallery. This piece was dedicated in 1986, there at Kirk in the Hills.

From Archives, written by Melissa Ford:
Marshall Fredericks frequently used the figure of a swan in his sculptures. Many cultures feature swans in their mythology and folklore. Swans have come to symbolize fidelity and purity and are associated with music, poetry and divination. Fredericks often employed the swan as a symbol of resurrection and eternal life in his sculptures. Wings of the Morning, Freedom of the Human Spirit, and Indian and Wilds Swans as well as several other works feature swans.
It seems that Fredericks' possessed a deep love and appreciation for these beautiful and graceful creatures. Besides sculpting swans, Fredericks played an integral role in a swan nesting project during the 1960s. As a civic gesture to his hometown of Birmingham, Michigan, Fredericks presented two pairs of swans to the city. The Australian Black and White Mute swans made their home in Quarton Lake located in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, several of the birds did not fare well in their new surroundings had to be replaced by the city of Birmingham.
During the 1970s, in order to protect the swans and encourage nesting, the parks department constructed a bird sanctuary in the middle of the lake. This tiny floating island, constructed of several government surplus "life rafts", was approximately thirty-five feet in diameter and covered in a vegetative screen of wild grasses and rushes. Each winter, the swans would be removed from the lake and provided with shelter by the parks department until spring when they would return to the water. The swans would then spend the rest of spring, summer and early fall on Quarton Lake being enjoyed by passing residents and visitors.
As Fredericks' home in Birmingham overlooked Quarton Lake, it is quite plausible that one of these birds served as a real life inspiration for the swans often found in Marshall Fredericks' work.




Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998, “Wings of the Morning [Plaster],” Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, accessed June 25, 2024,