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Andrew Jackson, modeled in 1826; carved between 1836 and early 1843
Ferdinand Pettrich (1798-1872)

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24 x 15 x 12 inches
Status: Classical American Homes Preservation Trust

Born in Dresden, Germany, Ferdinand Pettrich received his early training from his father, Franz Pettrich, sculptor to the Saxon court and professor at the Dresden Academy where Pettrich studied from 1817 until 1819. With the encouragement and connections of his father, he perfected his skills in Rome under Bertel Thorwaldsen, the Danish-born neoclassical sculptor. With the exception of a brief stay in Florence in 1823 and Athens in 1833, Pettrich maintained his studio in Rome until he decided to go to America in 1835. He settled briefly in Philadelphia, then in Washington, D.C., where he executed the likenesses of such famous Americans as Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler and Andrew Jackson, then in the twilight of his presidency.


Pettrich was introduced to Jackson in 1836 through a letter written by the Philadelphia artist Thomas Sully to Ralph Earl, Jackson’s nephew by marriage and the president’s artist-in-residence. While there is no published reference to Pettrich’s bust of Jackson, Pettrich mentioned the portrait in a letter to Thorvaldsen (Barber 1991, p. 127). Because of the integrity of the likeness, it is assumed to be based on a life sitting.


Like George Washington, Jackson was an American icon. As a result, he is one of the nation’s most frequently depicted presidents. Hiram Powers had sculpted a bust in 1835, which Pettrich may have seen, but a more likely influence on Pettrich’s portrait was Luigi Persico, whose sculpture of Jackson was made in 1829 and presented at the White House in 1834, where Pettrich could have seen it. As one scholar remarked, “all three sculptors shared a similar objectivity in rendering the elder statesmen’s features and emphasized his wrinkles, sunken cheeks, pursed lips and deep-set eyes (Clark, p. 62).”


There are at least six replicas of this work. The original is in the Ursuline Convent Archives and Museum, New Orleans. Other examples are in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Maine Historical Society, Portland; George Washington National Masonic Temple, Alexandria, Virginia; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and the Pink Palace Museum, Memphis, Tennessee.


Pettrich’s years in Washington were disappointing. He had hoped to be included in the group of artists winning government commissions, but his efforts were largely unsuccessful. In 1842 he narrowly survived a murder attempt while working in his Washington studio. Shortly thereafter, he left for Brazil, where he became the court sculptor to Emperor Dom Pedro II.


In 1858, when he was almost sixty years old, Pettrich returned to Rome. He was rewarded with the commission for the monumental tomb of Cardinal Bartholomew Pacca, and created several allegorical figures, bas-reliefs, and portrait busts. One of his last works was a bust of Johann Joachim Wincklelmann, the father of neoclassicism. Nancy Rivard Shaw



Barber, James G. Old Hickory: A Life Sketch of Andrew Jackson.  Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution/Tennessee State Museum, 1990.


Barber, James G. Andrew Jackson: A Portrait Study. Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution/Tennessee State Museum, 1991.


Clark, H. Nichols B. A Marble Quarry: The James H. Ricau Collection of Sculpture at the Chrysler Museum of Art. New York: Hudson Hills Press/Chrysler Museum of Art, 1997.


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This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.


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