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The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Lee Family Digital Archive

Rome October 3/58

            My Dear & noble Old Friend & Brother

            I have the unexplainable pleasure to address this letter to you from my dear Rome, the only & truly Residence of fine Arts, I feel myself again in my native eliment like the fish which [sic] was thrown out from its native water & which after 23 years by its fate was forced to swim in all kind of waters, which was not suitable for him, & now in the last part of his life he is so happy to swim in his native water.

            My North American Indian Museum, from which I made in Washington in periods all necessary studies after the originals, from this interesting & human race, which visited the Congress at Washington in different periods & which I have executed in original models in Brazil, & brought it at Rome, have received such a general applaus that the Pope has placed them in the handsomest & largest salon at the New Museum of Pious the VIIII at St John Lataran, in which this collosal saloon is filled with figures, busts, bassreliefs & sketches of all my North American Indians, an honour & high distinction, which no living artist except Canova1 has received [sic] except me.

            I hope my dear friend [sic] that this notice will give you some satisfaction for your noble feeling acknowlegdment [sic] of my talent a real artist, which you always have honoured me.

            My good freind Dr Clinton Van Tuyl from New York which has returned to the U. States to settle some buisiness [sic] of his, at the Congress, this winter, I have requested him very kind to make you in my name a visit at Richmond if he should have no opportunity to meet you at Washington, he is related with all my buisiness & claim against the U. States Congress, because he was at Rio mine & my family procurator, now my good Mr: Wise be so kind & do all what you can to try to relieve me by the Congress & Government in such a way, that if I cannot obtain the money which they owe me, at least to remunerate me with a public work generously payed, so that my freind Van Tuyl could bring me some satisfactory conclusion over my case, at his arrival at Rome, & at the same time Mr: Van Tuyl could bring us the Bufaloe skin & some Indian arms or objects, which is possible to obtain through the kindness of your good son, which I & all my family sends to you & all your good family their best respects.

            What a pleasure it would be to see you again before I die, your likeness is in our parlour always under our eyes & we all think & speak often of you & may be you already have forgotten your old & truly freind & Brother

Ferdinando Pettrich.2

P.S. If you have to spare of your costly time a moment, you ought to write me how you are & your good family. What I have seen for the present here of our great American living Artists or Sculptors, I think that we all are humbuged & that our exalted Native American ambition deserve it.

Our address

Ferdinando Pettrich

Piazza Ricci

Via Sta Aurea No: 135

Roma

His Excellence

            Henry W. Wise

 

 

Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 3, M2009.240

Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 May 27

 

1. Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was an Italian neoclassical sculptor.

2. Ferdinand Pettrich (1798-1872) was an internationally famous German portrait sculptor who studied in Rome and worked in Germany, Brazil, the United States, and Italy. He is known for his portraits of US political figures as well as Native Americans. In the 1840s he became the Court Sculptor for Brazil’s Dom Pedro II. 

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