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Sketches for "The Spirit of Detroit"


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Sketches for "The Spirit of Detroit"


Drawing, American--20th century.
Figure drawing.
Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998


Oil pencil on tracing paper
15.5" x 13.75"

The erection of The Spirit of Detroit at the City-County Building (now Coleman A. Young Municipal Center) in 1958 marked the formal completion of the structure whose construction began in 1951. Located in front of a white marble wall at the entrance to the building, the sculpture depicts the cultural and religious spirit of the Detroit community. At the time, The Spirit of Detroit was said to be the largest sculpture cast in Europe since the Renaissance period (1400 – 1600). It stands sixteen feet high and twenty-two feet across from fingertip to fingertip.

On the Vermont marble wall behind the figure are the official seals of Wayne County, Michigan and the City of Detroit. Engraved on the wall is a verse from II Corinthians: ”Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.” Designed to continue the thought indicated in the inscription on the wall, the sculpture is in the form of a kneeling man with outstretched arms. In his right hand he holds a father, mother and child representing family, which, according to Fredericks, is “probably the noblest human relationship.” In his left hand, the figure bears a sphere with rays emanating from it signifying deity. Fredericks chose the sphere because it is an object complete in itself with no beginning and no end.

This sculpture took Fredericks four years to complete and meant a great deal to the sculptor, who once remarked, “I pray only that this work in some small way inspire those who see it.” Fredericks appears to have gotten his wish as the citizens of Detroit immediately embraced this giant figure as the city’s cultural icon by giving it the affectionate nickname, “The Jolly Green Giant.” The sculpture is also frequently dressed in local sporting teams’ jerseys during playoff action, and The Spirit of Detroit’s image appears as the central element in the logos of the city’s departments and services.


Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998


Marshall M. Fredericks Papers
Series VIII, Cabinet 2 Drawer 13 Folder 2


c. 1958


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








Oil pencil drawing



Drawing Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Oil pencil drawing

Physical Dimensions

15.5" x 13.75"