University Museums

Title: Marriage Ring (Wedding Ring, Ring of Life)
Name: Sculpture
Date: 1942
Medium: Terra cotta
Dimensions: Figure Group 32 x 60 x 18 cm (12 5/8 x 23 5/8 x 7 1/16 in.) Pool Diameter: 180 in. (457.2 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Commissioned by Iowa State College. Gift of the 1941 VEISHEA Central Committee. Permanent installation inside MacKay Hall. In the Christian Petersen Art Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, MacKay Hall, South Entry
Object Number: U88.66
More Information
"The Marriage Ring" (also called Wedding Ring or Ring of Life) was created by Christian Petersen for the College of Home Economics in 1942. The curriculum was centered on the home and families and Petersen thought children represented the ideal image for the College.

This playful scene depicts three life-sized children, sculpted at the edge of a circular pool. A young girl leans over the edge to gently cups a water lily, while two boys are see sitting on the edge of the pool, intently studying a turtle. The children are oblivious to their surroundings and are utterly absorbed in the moment. The circular basin of the pool represents a wedding ring and the valuable gems of the ring are symbolized by the three children, which Petersen considered the jewels of a marriage. Around the outside of the pool are words from the poem The Hired Man's Faith in Children by James Whitcomb Riley:

"I believe all children's good,
Ef they're only understood,
Even bad ones, 'pears to me,
'S jes' as good as they kin be!"

The composition suggests a captured moment of children at play. The use of green plant and grass motifs flank the children and are repeated both inside and outside of the ring, linking both the sculpture and the pool to its surroundings. This sculpture is also known as Wedding Ring or Ring of Life. The original was conserved and is now located in the south foyer of MacKay Hall. The reproduction, due to vandalism, was cast and reinforced concrete in 1991.

The reproduction, due to vandalism, was cast and reinforced concrete in 1991.
Due to vandalism during the 1970s and 1980s, the original figures were conserved and moved inside MacKay Hall, and in 1991 the sculpture was recast in concrete. The reproduction was placed outside the building on the original fountain ring.