© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music
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 https://bit.ly/3syyw6p. 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.
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.'
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.
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.
I will follow up with colleagues at the National Portrait Gallery and try to establish contact with Kevin Wadsworth who talks about Petrie’s account of her life in a Tell us More entry on the NPG site https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp07421/maria-petrie-nee-zimmern?search=sas&sText=Petrie&role=art - scroll to end
There is a very interesting piece on Maria Petrie in MAGnet of 4th December 2019 (MAG is Manchester Art Gallery). The link is here (I hope!): https://www.magnetmanchester.org/silent-witness-patrick/tag/Maria+Petrie
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 https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/portrait-study-256130
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, https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/sir-stanley-marchant-18831949-cvo-fram-principal-of-the-royal-academy-of-music-19361949-149413)
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.
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.
Yes confirmed from my documentation taken from Maria's autobiography
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
I am following up by email with Kevin to hopefully help advance this discussion.
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'
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.