Artist: Ferdinand August Pettrich
Title: Andrew Jackson

Overall: 11 1/2 x 24 3/8 x 14 5/8 in. (29.2 x 61.9 x 37.1 cm)
Gift of James H. Ricau and Museum purchase

This bust of Andrew Jackson was carved by Ferdinand August Pettrich. Near the final year of Jackson’s presidency, Pettrich gained access to President Jackson by way of a letter written to the President’s nephew. Pettrich, a German artist who trained as a sculptor in Rome, was able to work directly from life. This means the artists was able to view their subject in person, rather than creating from looking at a picture or drawing. The artist chose to represent Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, with a bare chest and stoic gaze, alluding to Jackson’s strong personality, which included a legendary temper. The bust was carved when Jackson was nearly 70 years old, and the artist does not attempt to idealize or flatter his subject. In this way, the sculpture follows a realistic style of art favored by rulers in ancient Rome. Jackson himself wished a faithful representation, having told other artists, “I have no desire to look young, as long as I feel old.”

Inspired by Current Events

A year after taking office, Andrew Jackson worked to pass legislation called the Indian Removal Act through both houses of Congress in 1830. The acts required American Indians to give up their lands east of the Mississippi in exchange for lands in the west. Those wishing to remain could become citizens of the state in which they lived. In theory, the treaty was designed to be voluntary and peaceful, yet some were forcibly pressured and removed from their lands. Efforts by many American Indian nation leaders to stop Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Acts included meetings with the President, visits to the Supreme Court, and protests in Washington, D.C. During these visits, the artist Pettrich witnessed the activities of the tribal delegations in the capital city. He was very taken with those he met, and had many of the Chiefs to his studio. During these encounters, Pettrich would complete studies, or drawings, of American Indian leaders. In October of 1837, a Sioux delegation performed ceremonial dances in Franklin Square. Pettrich sketched these dances, which were later reproduced for publication. He continued to explore the theme of the American Indian in ways similar to artists such as Peter Stephenson, whose Wounded Indian is also in the Chrysler Museum of Art collection.