J. Becquet, Sculptor

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 62
Date: 1859
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 257 x 194 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Thames Set', 1871
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 96
Catalogues: K.52; M.52; T.54; W.48
Impressions taken from this plate  (96)


man seated, musician, portrait, sculptor.


It was published and exhibited under a variety of titles over the years, sometimes misleadingly:

'Becquet, sculptor' (1861, V&A). 2
'The Fiddler' (1871, Ellis & Green). 3
'Monsieur Becgio' [sic] (1863, Royal Academy). 4
'Portrait of Mons. Becquet, sculptor' (1874, Pall Mall Galleries). 5
'The Cello Player' (1875, Cincinnati). 6
'Becquet. The Violocellist' (1881, Wunderlich's). 7
'Becquet' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 8
'Portrait of Becquet' (1893, Chicago). 9
'Becquet' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 10
'J. Becquet, sculptor' (2009, Whistler Etching Project)

Whistler's original title, 'The Fiddler', as published in the 'Thames Set' would normally be the one used in the catalogue raisonné. However, it is misleading, since the subject is a man playing the cello, not a fiddle, and so early American exhibition catalogues corrected it to 'The Cello Player' or 'The Violocellist'.

Despite his musical abilities, Becquet was actually a sculptor, and the first title recorded for this etching is 'Becquet, sculptor', a title probably provided by Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) when selling an impression in 1861. Similarly the title 'Portrait of Mons. Becquet, sculptor' was used at Whistler's first one-man exhibition in 1874. 'J. Becquet, sculptor' identifies the sitter clearly, and is the preferred title.

2: 1 January 1861, V&A Register of Prints, p. 32.

3: A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on The Thames.

4: London RA 1863 (cat. no. 990).

5: London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. no. 21).

6: Cincinnati 1875 (cat. no. 253).

7: New York 1881 (cat. no. 69).

8: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 48).

9: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2221).

10: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 52).


A young man with short, dark bushy hair, a moustache and 'imperial' beard, and wearing a smoking cap, sits facing front, bending forward, holding between his legs a violoncello. He is lit from the right and casts shadows on the wall behind and to the left.
At the bottom of the plate and near the top are muskets and other traces of an earlier etching, not by Whistler.


Just Becquet (1829-1907). According to Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), Whistler told him it was 'done at one sitting'. 11

Mansfield wrote: 'Becquet was a sculptor, in Paris, of musical tastes and accomplishments.' 12 Whistler's etching shows Becquet in musical rather than sculptural occupation. The New York Sun commented 'Becquet - the inspired head of Becquet, who probably rasped on the finger board of his violincello - what a goodly picture Whistler left the world of him.' 13

Becquet was a considerable sculptor, a landscape painter, and a good musician, an enthusiast for the works of Beethoven, Schubert, Bach and other great composers. In 1895 he made a statue entitled La Voix du violencelle (a standing female nude playing the cello). He had a studio in the rue Vaugirard. 14

Henri Léon Greber sculpted a bust of Becquet in 1903. 15 A bust of Becquet is displayed at the entrance to the Parc Micaud, Besançon. 16

It is possible that Whistler's friend Becquet was related to the Becquet frères who printed lithographs in Paris from around 1830 on, including caricatures and political satires, theatrical and biblical subjects, city- and land-scapes. 17

11: Written on Graphic with a link to impression #K0520110.

12: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 52).

13: Anon., 'Art Notes', The Sun, New York, 5 January 1909 (GUL PC19/11).

14: A. Estignard, Just Becquet. Sa vie, ses oeuvres, Besançon, 1922, pp. 2, 56, 79 et seq.

15: Manufacture National de Sèvres, France. See (accessed 2011).

16: carte-besancon... (accessed 2011).

17: i.e. Auguste Bouquet's musical satire on the monarchy, 1833, La Caricature, No. 152, Pl. 317, B.M. 1989,0128.27; Honoré Daumier, 'Mr Guiz..' 1833, La Caricature, No. 162, Pl. 340, B.M. 11,1221.2; Bibical series, i.e. BM 1981,U.56-134; Adolphe Hervier, Baraque, 1852, BM 1925,1013.69; (accessed 2012).


This is one of a series of portraits of Parisians in various professions, including Z. Astruc, Editor of 'L'Artiste' [36], C. L. Drouet, Sculptor [35] and Finette [61].