George Petrie (antiquarian)

Annie Lee | Mar 10, 2023

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George Petrie (Dublin, January 1, 1790 - January 17, 1866) was a Victorian-era Irish painter, musician and archaeologist.

George Petrie was born in Dublin, Ireland, and grew up there, living at 21 Great Charles Street, just off Mountjoy Square. He was the son of portrait and miniature painter James Petrie, a native of Aberdeen, Scotland, who had settled in Dublin. He became interested in art from childhood. At the Dublin Society schools he was trained as an artist and won the silver medal in 1805, at the age of fourteen.

After a trip to England in the company of Francis Danby and James Arthur O'Connor, both close friends of his, he returned to Ireland where he worked mainly producing sketches for engravings for travel books-including George Newenham Wright's guidebooks to Killarney, Wicklow, and Dublin, Thomas Cromwell's Excursions through Ireland, and James Norris Brewer's Beauties of Ireland.

In the late 1820s and the following decade, Petrie significantly revitalized the Royal Irish Academy's Antiquities Committee. He is credited with the acquisition of many important Irish manuscripts, including an autograph copy of the Annals of the Four Masters, as well as examples of metalwork from the island, including the Cong Cross. His writings on early Irish archaeology and architecture were of great importance, particularly his essay Round Towers of Ireland, which appeared in his 1845 book entitled The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland. He is often called "the father of Irish archaeology." His work on the graves at Carrowmore is still of great interest in the study of the site today.

From 1833 to 1843 he was employed by Thomas Colby and Thomas Larcom as head of the Topography Department (the antiquities division) of the Irish Ordnance Survey. Among his collaborators were John O'Donovan, one of Ireland's greatest scholars, and Eugene O'Curry. A prize-winning essay presented to the Royal Irish Academy in 1834 on Irish military architecture was never published, but his seminal essay On the History and Antiquities of Tara Hill was published by the Academy in 1839. During this period Petrie was himself editor of two popular history and archaeology journals, the Dublin Penny Journal and, later, the Irish Penny Journal. Another important contribution Petrie made to Irish culture was the collection of traditional Irish tunes and melodies that he published in 1855 under the title The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland. The first commercial recording of Petrie's collection was The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland (the 1855 Edition of 147 Airs & the 1882 Edition of 40 Airs) [2007, 8-cd set, Trigon TRD 1526, 187 tracks] arranged and performed by Irish pianist J.J. Sheridan.

As an artist, his favorite medium was watercolor, which, due to the prejudices of the time, was considered inferior to oil painting. However, he can be considered one of the best Irish Romantic painters of his time. Some of his best works are in the collections of the National Gallery of Ireland, such as his watercolor painting Gougane Barra Lake with the Hermitage of St. Finbarr, Co. Cork (1831).

He was awarded the prestigious Cunningham Medal of the Royal Irish Academy three times: first in 1831 for his essay on round towers, second in 1834 for his essay (now lost) on Irish military architecture, and third in 1839 for his essay on the antiquities of Tara Hill.


  1. George Petrie (antiquarian)
  2. George Petrie (artista)
  3. ^ Webb, Alfred. "George Petrie - Irish Biography". Library of Ireland. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  4. ^ Alfred Webb, George Petrie - Irish Biography, su, Library of Ireland. URL consultato il 23 settembre 2020.
  5. ^ John Cowell, Dublin's Famous People and where they lived, O'Brien Press Ltd., 1996, pp. 149.
  6. (en) Colette Moloney, « Petrie, George », dans The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland, Dublin, University College Dublin Press, 2013 (ISBN 978-1-906359-78-2), p. 830
  7. Colette Moloney: Petrie, George. In: Harry White und Barra Boydell (Hrsg.): The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland. Band 2. University College Dublin Press, Dublin 2013, ISBN 978-1-906359-78-2, S. 830.

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