Nordic Civilization [Plaster]

Dublin Core


Nordic Civilization [Plaster]


Nordic Civilization, from Fountain of Eternal Life:
Peace Arising from the Flames of War, 1964
Plaster, 1987

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall M. Fredericks

This full-scale model of one auxiliary sculpture of the Fountain of Eternal Life, Cleveland, Ohio, characterizes the Nordic civilization, a culture that has been defined and shaped by the sea. The smoothness of the surface and the graceful, curving lines are highly suggestive of the sea itself. The Nordic people are at the mercy of the large, powerful sea-god Poseidon, who has the ocean under his command. His large right hand rests upon the body of a shark. His other arm is outstretched and the hand's palm is downward suggesting his control of the waves and all within his reach.
Fredericks unites Poseidon with familiar creatures of the sea: porpoise, sturgeons, and tortoise to suggest the union of this god and his minions.


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

46" x 60" x 144"


Plaster full-scale

Catalog Number


Object Location

Main Exhibit Gallery


1987 August, 31 Gift to Museum and SVSU Board of Control


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

"RE: Nordic Civilization
In Leah Mueller's paper she identifies the figure in this sculpture as Aegir or his son Ler. From the research I have done, I learned that Ler or Her is just another name for Aegir. I also learned that in Norse mythology there are two other ocean divinities: Niord or Njord and Mimir. However Aegir does seem to be the most prominent sea deity.
He is described as being and old man with a long white beard and claw-like fingers. He is said to dwell in the deep sea and seemed to have an evil side, sometimes causing tempests. However he was considered to be omnipotent in his realm. Njord was a benevolent god who stilled the tempests of Aegir. He was portrayed as a personification of summer being in his prime of life. The only reference I could find to Mimir is that he was a sea giant who was known for his wisdom.

If the figure represents a specific sea god at all, I would guess that it is Aegir because of the fact that her was the most prominent Nordic sea god and his physical characteristics seem to match most closely.

The source of my information is from several books, the relevant sections of which are photocopied in the Nordic Civilization object file."

Poseidon/Neptune/Thor: sibling of Zeus and Hades; god of all bodies of water; first to tame horses and sometimes portrayed in chariot drawn by seahorses; attribute is the trident, a traditional three-pronged fishing tool. Thor is the ancient Scandinavian god of thunder and his attribute is a mighty hammer. Thor calms the seas; there is popular story of him fishing for the world serpent.
Dolphins/porpoise: linked to Apollo and his gifts of prophecy and wisdom; association with healing and the sea; savior and rescuer in myths; Greco Roman carrier of the gods and human souls.
Two sharks: symbolize the dangers of nature
4 fish: associated with the name Christ; Eucharistic symbol; sea creature
Turtle: strength endurance and bearers of the world; Native American: earth and earth mother-support of world; immortality, patience, wisdom, great experience, associated with water and safety at sea.

Molly Barth copy:
Right next to it, we have "The Nordic Civilization," here with the tortoise, and the shark's bodies wrapping themselves around the piece, and then you have Poseidon, the god of the sea, with his flowing beard, as though it's in water. Then you have the porpoises and then the sturgeons up on top. This is another one, the other one, it's also carved of norwegian emerald pearl granite.




Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998, “Nordic Civilization [Plaster],” Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, accessed May 30, 2024,