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The Andrew F. Petryn Collection

As a new addition to our gallery of string and woodwind instruments, the Andrew F. Petryn Collection displays 10 notable objects of high quality and fine condition bequeathed to the museum by the former Chief Conservator of the Yale Art Gallery.

This exhibit is comprised of examples from the personal collection of a musician and connoisseur. Formed over a period of five decades, it includes two violins by master makers from the glorious Cremonese school of luthiers; elegant examples of stringed instruments now obsolete: a pochette and a pardessus de viole; a hurdy-gurdy; a quarter-size violoncello; and bows by the finest of the great French school of bow makers.

Andrew Frederick Petryn (1918-2013)

A native New Havener, Andrew Petryn was the only son of European immi- grants: his father, Frederick, was from Austria, and his mother, Helen, came from Poland. A brilliant student, he received notice as a youth for his precocity both as a violinist and as a painter. Graduating from New Haven High School, he received a scholarship to the Yale School of Art where he was awarded the Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 1943. He went for further training at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at Harvard’s Fogg Museum.

As a young man, Andrew took a position at the Yale Art Gallery in the con- servation department, where he rose to the position of Chief Conservator. He gained a wide, and at times, controversial reputation in the art world for his advocacy of conservation, as opposed to restoration of art works that derived from his belief that restoration often was mistakenly undertaken with the il- lusory idea that a painting could be returned the appearance it had on the day it was completed. He believed that conservation, on the other hand, should attempt to demonstrate the unadulterated work of the artist, and faithfully to reveal and preserve to the extent possible the artist’s original intent. To attain that end, he became a pioneer in developing techniques grounded in physics, chemistry, and even electron microscopy.

Although he opted for a career in the visual arts, Andy cultivated lifelong his love of music. An exceptionally talented violinist, he frequently enjoyed per- forming chamber music with Yale School of Music faculty members in infor- mal soirees. His special knowledge and skills as an art conservator led him to develop a keen interest in the history and construction of the violin. He was a habitué of the ateliers of the leading violin maker/dealers in New York, often in the company of legendary figures in the violin world such as Heifetz, Milstein, Szigeti, and Francescatti at a time when their careers were at their apogees.

A friend of the Collection’s former director, Richard Rephann, Andrew was a charter member of the museum’s Board of Advisors. In recognition of his long service on the Board as well as his generous donation of time and talent in restoring the 19th-century oil painting entitled “The Little Flute Player” that hangs in the director’s office, Andrew was named an Honorary Life Member of the Associates of the Collection in 2004.