Completed London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 20th C, Sculpture 34 Can we confirm that this is a bust of Sir Stanley Marchant by Maria Petrie (1887-1972)?

Topic: Artist

Can the collection clarify where the Petrie comes from? Is the bust signed that way, and if so, where? Is the date of the bust known? I ask because of the possibility it might be by Maria Petrie (1887-1972), whose three works on Art UK are all portrait busts Maria Petrie emigrated to the United States in the latter 1940s (after 1946) and was living there (in California) by 1949. Thus, it is of interest when this bust was made, if that is known or can be determined. The collection's own entry says the bust is unsigned and undated, so the Petrie must come from some other source. The accession number suggests it may have been acquired in 2003, though perhaps that is only the date when it was catalogued.

Jacinto Regalado, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. Maria Petrie, née Zimmern (1887–1972) has been confirmed as the sculptor and the bust has been dated 1932–1933. A biography of the artist has been added to Art UK, with additional details not in the Wikipedia link.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


The Collection has commented: ‘We’re afraid I don’t know where the name Petrie came from, and the cataloguer who worked on this record is no longer at the Academy. The bust is unsigned and undated, and there are no notes to say why the name Petrie was attributed to the bust.

Having looked at the three busts on Art UK, we agree, it does seem like this could be Maria Petrie (1887-1972). Unfortunately, we don’t have any documentation in our collections database about when or how this bust arrived at the Academy. The Object Number 2003.1643 doesn’t necessarily mean that the bust arrived in 2003, rather this part of the number indicates when the catalogue record was created in our collections management system. It is more likely that this bust was donated to the Academy or was commissioned by us closer to the time when Sir Stanley Marchant was Principal between 1936-1949.

It could be that the bust was created during that period, or maybe even when Sir Stanley was knighted in 1943. However, these are just assumptions. Our Librarian has checked the minute books around the period of Sir Stanley Marchant’s time as Principal of the Academy, but unfortunately, she was unable to find any mention of the bust or the name Petrie.

Therefore, we are unable to confirm that the creator is indeed Maria Petrie and would need more evidence before we could agree to attributing the work to Marie Petrie.

We would certainly welcome more research into the creator of our bust if it’s possible to keep the discussion open. Do you think it could be plausible that Maria Petrie could have created the bust between 1936-1949? We guess it is possible that she created it after Marchant’s death in 1949, but if the Academy were to commission a bust it may have been easier to ask a sculptor based in the UK, unless there was a connection between Marchant and Petrie.

We’re sorry we can’t offer any more information from our records. Should we find anything else in our minute books, we will add this to the discussion.'

Jacinto Regalado,

The problem, of course, is that the connection of the surname Petrie to this bust is rather tenuous, and it might be a red herring. Maria Petrie's busts on Art UK are all in bronze, by the way.

Jacinto Regalado,

Marchant does not appear to have an entry in the ODNB. He does have one in Grove Music Online, which no doubt the collection can access, but that seems unlikely to yield what we want. Perhaps one of his descendants could help.

Guillaume Evrard,

Maria Petrie is associated with Aristide Maillol, whose sculpture may be be characterized by plump figures.
I would argue this formative association and influence is clearly visible in the 1911 Manchester portrait study

Let's assume that Petrie's practice evolved and matured towards leaner figures (outside Maillol's teaching) from the early 1910s into the 1930s and later, there is still an angularity in this (1936-1949?) bust of Marchant that makes the subject look leaner than in photographic representations of Marchant.
Marchant's figure was lean, not that lean.
(even in the 1946 Dodd's painted portrait at the Royal Academy of Music,

Besides, A. Huxley was lean, maybe even leaner than Marchant; yet, the 1959 bust portrait of Huxley does not make look him leaner than reality (with a similar question mark over the motivations for calling Petrie from California to complete Huxley's likeness)

So, on formal grounds (said angularity), I would argue against an attribution to Maria Petrie.

Jacinto Regalado,

If this were to be by Petrie, it would have been made before she moved to the US in the latter 1940s. What we need, I think, is to focus on Marchant and sources related to him which potentially address who made this bust of him.

Kevin Wadsworth,

Yes confirmed from my documentation taken from Maria's autobiography

Kevin Wadsworth

Kevin, I remember your comment about this unpublished autobiography from the Tell us More entry on the NPG's website I was then administering back in 2016; it would be great to know more what she said about this sculpture from your documentation. Thank you so much for responding on this thread. David

Kevin Wadsworth has confirmed these notes from Petrie's autobiography: 'After the end of the Chiswick period I modelled a portrait of Dr. Merchant organist at St.Paul's, later director of the Academy of Music, a commission which gave me great pleasure for Dr. Marchant was a charming person and had a good head to shape.

He was too busy to come out to my studio more than a few times but his sharply cut features were easy to capture and the bust was successful.

He once took me to the organ loft of St.Paul's from where I got an unforgettable view of Wrens masterwork..and listened to him playing Bach'

Jacinto Regalado,

If I am interpreting it correctly, the extract from Petrie's autobiography implies she made the bust while Marchant was organist at St Paul's, which was from 1927 to 1936 (he resigned in 1936 when he became principal of the RAM). Unless the autobiography gives the year it was made, it can be dated 1927-1936 or c. 1930s.

Jacinto Regalado,

I would suggest listing the bust under "Petrie (?)" with a note like "Evidence has come forth to the effect that sculptor Maria Petrie (1887-1972), known to have made bronze portrait busts, made a bust of the sitter during his time as organist at St Paul's (1927-1936). The surname Petrie became associated with this RAM bust at some point, but it is not clear why or when, as the bust is not signed or dated. Thus, her authorship, while possible, cannot be confirmed."

Petrie says she made a bronze bust of Marchant and this is of the same general style as others by her. If there is no other recorded but otherwise unaccountable one by another hand, then it can reasonably be assumed this is by Petrie - or at least now recorded as 'attributed to' her.

Why 'Petrie' is in the RAM record without a source is immaterial to that conclusion. It may have been noted down simply from 'corporate memory', which might also explain why only the surname was recalled at the time by whoever did it.

Jacinto Regalado,

I do not disagree with you Pieter, but I was trying to present the most cautious possible option for the collection's consideration. It is, of course, up to the RAM to choose the attribution.

Johann Zimmern,

Hi - My name is Johann Zimmern from San Francisco, California. My sister Friederike Zimmern-Wessel and I have been working on Maria Petrie's (nee Zimmern) autobiography (Maria was the sister of our grandfather Dr. Fritz Zimmern). In her autobiography addressed to her grandson Brian and his wife Flavia, she writes: "Near the end of the Chiswick period I modeled a portrait of Dr. Marchant, organist of St. Paul’s, later director of the Academy of Music, a commission which gave me pleasure, for Dr. Marchant was a charming person and had a good head to shape. He was too busy to come out to my studio more than a few times, but his sharply cut features were easy to capture and the bust was successful. He once took me up into the organ loft of St. Paul’s, from where I got an unforgettable view of Wren’s masterwork, while I watched him pull out the stops of the big organ and heard him play Bach. I also once heard Schweizer play there."

While we are not art historians and don't know what other proof is required, I'd like to add a picture of the plaster cast my great-aunt made before turning the bust into bronze. You can find additional information about Maria Petrie at the Manchester Gallery -

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Jacinto Regalado,

That is very helpful, Johann. It matches image #4 in the Art UK entry:

I think it is now beyond reasonable doubt that the RAM's bust is by Maria Petrie.

This all seems to fit together well. The question of how the bust ended in the RAM has not been answered, but the obvious route - since he died in 1949 while still its Principal - is that (whether kept in his office there or at home) it was his and given by his family at his death - unless either a specific bequest by him or his wife (they also had two children).

Wills would need to be checked for the latter option but the fact there is apparently no minuted record of a formal gift suggests it may have been an informal one, with 'Petrie' as the maker's name simply corporate memory (as I have previously suggested).

Marchant's Wiki entry shows he taught at the RAM from 1914, long before becoming Warden (1934) and Principal in 1936. It was only then that he gave up being organist of St Paul's which he had been from 1927 and sub-organist from 1903, so he was already long connected with both by the time Petrie modelled him sometime in the 1927-36 slot.

Jacinto Regalado,

Petrie's authorship has been confirmed and a date range of 1927-36 has been established, so I think this discussion can be closed pending the collection's approval. The matter of exactly how and when the bust entered the collection is secondary, and since the collection has no information about that, it seems best to get the bust properly attributed and dated on Art UK and moving on.

This one is for Katherine Eustace to wrap up when she can, as the sculpture co-ordinator. While Marchant was Organist at St Paul's from 1927 and that is what Petrie called him, she may have been speaking slightly loosely so it might have been done a little earlier in his Sub-Organist period (i.e. 'c.1927-1936' might be safer, albeit splitting hairs).

Jacinto Regalado,

The bust looks Art Deco-ish to me, so c. 1927-1936 fits well.

Friederike Zimmern-Wessel,

Hi - My name is Friederike Zimmern-Wessel and I have been working on Maria Petrie's (nee Zimmern) autobiography with my brother (see above). In her autobiography addressed Maria writes: "Near the end of the Chiswick period I modeled a portrait of Dr. Marchant,..."

Maria and her husband Eric moved to Chiswick in 1927. Even though Maria is not writing when the End of that period is exactly, Eric went to Abbotsholme School to teach there in the year 1932. Maria follows him half a year later.
So I think one can say, that the year the bust was made was around 1931-32.

I hope that is of help.

Friederike Zimmern-Wessel,

What we cannot say is, when the bust was cast in bronze, because Maria made it probably in clay. (It looks like clay on the foto Johann send and which belongs to our family)

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Friederike, that is helpful in narrowing down the date range. One could date it as early 1930s or ca. 1930 or ca. 1931-1932, with the last option being the most precise and the first option leaving more room for the fact that the date of casting in bronze is not known (although I assume the casting happened soon after the clay version was made).

Jacinto Regalado,

We now have a fairly precise date (c. 1931-1932) for the bust and the artist has been established. Do we need anything else to close?

Osmund Bullock,

The Electoral Roll (see attached) suggests that Maria and her husband Francis Eric Petrie were still at Chiswick in around Oct 1932, but gone a year later. They are listed at 25A St Peter's Square, Hammersmith (on the border with Chiswick) from 1928 to 1933; while the register is valid for 12 months from 15 Oct of the relevant year, it's generally based on information gathered in Oct or thereabouts of the *previous* year.

So if FEP took up his Derbyshire teaching post in 1932, it would have to have been in the autumn or winter of that year; and if Maria did not follow him until "half a year later", she must still have been at Chiswick for at least the first three or four months of 1933.

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Jacinto Regalado,

The best option may be early 1930s for the date.

Osmund Bullock,

And in fact London telephone directories still have a listing for 'F Eric Petrie' at the same address throughout 1933 - see attached.

They were published four times yearly, A-K in Feb & Aug, L-R in May & Nov. The deadline for a listing in the November 1933 edition was the 21st August, so the Petries could in theory have removed their entry up to the late summer of 1933, but did not. Which is not to say Maria was definitely there until after then - it's the sort of thing that could have been overlooked for a while (and it certainly isn't significant that it was still in his name). The matter is further confused by the requirement to give three months' notice of line cessation, but apparently only one month if taking up a line elsewhere (which they didn't - there is no phone listing for them anywhere else in the decade). But it does extend still further the portion of 1933 when Maria probably remained in Chiswick..

All of which provides no more certainty in terms of dates, but gives support to Jacinto's feeling that 'early 1930s' might be best - one could say c. 1931-33, I suppose, but does that add much?

'c.1931-33' preferable I suggest. 'Early 1930s' seen in isolation, without any context, covers up to 1935 and we know from Maria herself that it was at least modelled 'towards the end of' her Chiswick residence that began in 1927 and appears to have ended in mid/late 1933. Kate Eustace's call however, when this formally closes.

Jacinto Regalado,

Well, whatever form of dating is chosen, this is ready to close.

Katharine Eustace, Sculpture,

-Sir Stanley Marchant CVO DMus Oxon FSA FRAM FRCM (1883-1949), 1932-3
-Maria Petrie (née Zimmern) (1887-1972)
-Bronze. H: 106.7 cms
-Royal Academy of Music, London (2003.1643)

With Art UK's thanks, to Jacinto Regalado for arising the questions in the first place, and all the important contributions made to this fascinating rehabilitation of a lost artist.

This is a paradigm case of the loss of identity of a woman artist, and that within living memory. Here was a woman at the centre of European and West Coast American culture in the early and middle years of the twentieth century, whose oeuvre and autobiographical details have been pieced together in this discussion, immeasurably aided by ‘Patrick’ on Manchester Art Gallery’s online Magnet site (2019), on whose ‘Silent Witness’ contribution the summation here is heavily dependent, and by members of the artist’s extended family, to whom we are most grateful.

Maria Sophia Zimmern was born in Frankfurt and trained at the Staedel Art Institute there before attending the atelier of Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), in Paris. She exhibited in Paris and Brussels thereafter, almost certainly under the name of Zimmern. In passing, it is noteworthy that 'Portrait Study' (1911), now in Manchester Art Gallery, is evidence, as remarked on by Guillaume Evrard, of the influence of Maillol, and is likely to have been made, and possibly exhibited in Paris. She herself was the subject in paintings by two well-known avante garde artists Roger de la Fresnaye (Centre Pompidou) and Théo van Rysselberghe.

Zimmern married Francis Eric Steinthal, a former English International rugby player and schoolteacher in 1913, who, on the outbreak, of war took his mother’s name of Petrie and joined the Royal Fusiliers. They appear to have started married life in the architecturally dramatic, and to this day bohemian part of Edinburgh, at 21 St Bernard’s Crescent, where their son Martin was born in 1916. The artists John Duncan, Eric Robertson, and Cecile Walton were among their neighbours and acquaintance, and Petrie taught the poet, Wilfred Owen. German and painted his portrait. Owen invalided out of the war, and convalescent at Craiglockhart in Edinburgh in 1917, said of her she was ‘a mighty clever German sculptress’. Post-Great War they returned to Eric Petrie’s home county of Yorkshire, where Maria exhibited locally as ‘Mrs F.E. Petrie’. There was then time spent in London, where they lived at 25A (which suggests a basement flat, like their neighbour the sculptor Gertrude Hermes), St Peter’s Square, Chiswick, an artists’ colony known at the time as ‘Free Love Corner’ - a phrase coined by the writer and poet Robert Graves.

The essential documentary evidence first provided by Kevin Wadsworth and corroborated by Johann Zimmern, great-nephew of the artist, firmly attributes the bust of Marchant to Maria Petrie. Both quote from an unpublished autobiography. It should be noted, however, that Wadsworth’s version reads ‘After the end of the Chiswick period’, and Zimmern’s ‘Near the end of the Chiswick period’ – perhaps an error in transcription. Nevertheless, the autobiography makes clear that sittings were held while Stanley Marchant was organist at St Paul’s Cathedral, and before he became Principal of the Royal Academy of Music in 1936, and that he sat to her in her studio. Johann and his sister Friederike Zimmern-Wessel kindly provided a contemporary photograph of what is likely to be the plaster taken during the process of casting. It is clearly the same bust, but the medium is, as always, difficult to ascertain from a photograph, and from only one viewpoint: what might be a flash-line runs diagonally from ear lobe to shoulder, a chip to the back of the shoulder shows whiter, the whole is neatened off, and it may have a pale matt coating to the surface.

We also now know from the very helpful interventions of the artist’s great niece and nephew, that the Petries had moved to Chiswick in 1927, and that Eric Petrie took up a teaching post at Abbotsholme School on the Staffordshire-Derbyshire border in 1932. Maria followed him there some six months later. Petrie’s great niece suggests a date of 1931-32 for the bust. As schools tend to appoint from academic year to academic year, it is likely that Eric Petrie started at Abbotsholme in September 1932, which would mean the six-month gap before his wife joined him would have run into 1933, substantiated by Osmund Bullock’s Electoral Roll searches. Telephone directories, though further evidence of extended time into 1933, are less definitive. I prefer the date 1932 – in the days before central heating, clay was difficult to work in mid-winter and houses remained cold into Spring - but because of this extension into 1933, and squaring all doubts, I suggest a date of 1932-3, or if the Academy prefers, circa 1932.

Maria Petrie would become an art teacher at Abbotsholme, and published 'Modelling for Children' (Leicester 1936, much later reworked as 'Modelling' (Leicester, Dryad Press 1964). At some point after the war, in which they lost their only son, the Petries settled in Santa Barbara, California, and became naturalised citizens in 1949.

The outstanding question is when and by what agency did the bust arrive at the Royal Academy of Music? Without documentation this likely to remain inconclusive if not hypothetical. The church musician, teacher and composer, Stanley Marchant had been Organ Professor at the Royal Academy of Music from 1914, and in parallel from 1917, Sub-organist and Master of the Choristers at St Paul's Cathedral. Ten years later he became Organist of St Paul’s in 1927, until 1936, when he was appointed Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, a post he held to his death in 1949. He was King Edward Professor of Music of the University of London from 1937 to 1948 and was knighted in 1943. Marchant was also an accomplished watercolour painter and collected the work of fellow watercolourist musicians, which he displayed in the Royal Academy of Music. The Academy also owns examples of his work, presumably presented by him, or by his family on his decease. This in all likelihood is the route by which the Academy acquired the portrait bust, and as he died in office it is possible that the bust displayed somewhere in the Academy was left in situ at his death.

Petrie had modelled portrait busts of literary lions such as 'G. K. Chesterton' (1926), who is said to have been a family friend, and 'Aldous Huxley' (1959; both bronze and in the National Portrait Gallery, London). Incidentally Huxley had settled in California in 1937 and remained domiciled there for the rest of his life. Petrie had published the pioneering and influential 'Art and Regeneration' (1946), and this interest in art as therapy, may have led to her gravitating to the Huxley circle in California. At the time, Huxley, whose wife, Laura Archera Huxley was a distinguished therapist, was losing his sight, something Petrie observed with great sympathy in her portrayal of the writer.

Finally, what an interesting and important contribution to study, particularly women and sculpture studies, would the editing and publication of Maria Petrie’s autobiography make.

Martin Hopkinson,

Are there any works by her still at Abbotsholme, a progressive establishment with a long tradition of encouraging practical skills and the fine arts?

Many thanks to Katharine for the excellent summary, much of which has been adapted into a biography for Art UK, now on the website. I hope this can be added to after I have made contact with (?)Patrick Kelleher, whose post on Petrie is on Manchester Art Gallery's MAGnet.

Martin, it's an interesting question, but it is time to conclude this now.