Biografie von Ferdinand PETTRICH (1798-1872)

Birth place: Dresden (Germany)

Death place: Rome (Italy)

Profession: Sculptor

Studied: Thorwaldsen in Rome; Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Dresden, 1916 and with his father

Exhibited: PAFA, 1843-45, 1865

Work: NMAA; American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA; Newberry Lib., Chicago

Comments: Came to U.S. in 1835, on commission from Pope Pius IX to model North American Indians. He settled first in Philadelphia, where he executed portrait busts for several years, before relocating to Washington, DC. In the latter city, Pettrich hoped to gain the commission for two large statues that were to be placed on the great stairway at the western front of the U.S. Capitol. But although he submitted and was paid for his models, his proposal was eventually rejected. Despite this, he kept a studio in DC until the early 1840s, producing a number of works in stone, such as "Fisher Girl" and "Dying Tecumse" (both at NMAA). He was helpful in getting Emmanuel Leutze a copy of Houdon's life mask of Washington (for Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware"). The U.S. government's commission of Pettrich (in 1841) to design the base of Greenough's colossal Washington statue pushed the German-born sculptor into the controversy over the government's employment of foreign artists. This and an attempt on his life led him to leave DC and by 1847 he was listed (in Pennsylvania Academy catalogue) as residing in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), where he became court sculptor to Emporer Dom Pedro II. Pettrich eventually returned to Rome. In 1865, Pettrich's life-size marble "Dying Tecumseh" was brought from Brazil to the U.S. and displayed in the Capitol rotunda where President Lincoln's body lay in state. According to Samuels, when he returned to Rome, the Pope granted him a pension.

Sources: G&W; Thieme-Becker; Holmes, Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art; Fairman, Art and Artists of the Capitol, 76; Rutledge, PA; 7 Census (1850), Pa., Phila., p. 893 (note: G&W thought it possible that the Rowland Petrich, 52, sculptor, listed in this Philadelphia census might be Ferdinand Pettrich); Antiques (Aug. 1948), 100 (repro.). More recently, see Craven, Sculpture in America, 68-69; McMahan, Artists of Washington, D.C.; P&H Samuels, 371.

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