A Song without Words

John Pettie R.A., 1839 - 1893

A Song without Words

John Pettie R.A. 1839 - 1893


A view of a musician playing a violin to a room of empty chairs and wooden panelled walls. He is dressed all in black with a white wig, which is bright in contrast to the shadowy dark room beyond him. Discarded paper sheets lie on the floor at his feet.

Display Label

A Song Without Words exhibited 1888 John R. A. Pettie 1839 - 93 Oil on canvas The title of this work implies a musical reverie and a personal moment for the musician, with the lyrics to the tune on the floor. His back view suggests that this is not a performance and adds to the mystery as we cannot see his expression. The artist was closely associated with the musical world and organised two concerts in his studio, with an orchestra of 60 and over 250 guests. Scottish-born Pettie was a painter of historical scenes. After 1870 he turned more to portrait painting, often depicting his sitters in historical costume. In the late 1800s there was a particular vogue for pastiches of works of art from the 1700s as seen here in the costume, powdered wig and furniture. Pettie’s interpretations were always dramatic and with the richness of texture this painting possesses. Purchased 1904.9

Object Name

A Song without Words

Creators Name

John Pettie R.A.

Date Created



unframed: 60.8cm x 43.2cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint

On Display

[BG] Manchester Art Gallery - Balcony Gallery
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