Marchande de Vin, Ajaccio

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 485
Date: 1901
Medium: etching
Size: 101 x 68 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 2
Catalogues: K.-; M.-; T.-; W.-
Impressions taken from this plate  (2)


man seated, shop, wine, woman standing.


Although no dated record of Whistler's title was kept, the known title is appropriate.

'Marchande de Vin, Ajaccio' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 4

Miss Birnie Philip, who gave the plate to the University of Glasgow in 1935, may have recorded the title when the artist returned from Corsica in 1901, and she helped to reorganise his studio. Alternatively, it may have been recorded after his death in 1903, or when the collection was given to the University of Glasgow.

4: Envelope containing copper plate, Hunterian Art Gallery.


A middle-aged woman stands facing the viewer, turned slightly to the left. She wears a long-sleeved jacket and skirt of fairly heavy material, a loosely tied headscarf, a plain shawl crossed over her chest and held in at the waist by a broad, ankle-length apron. A man sits behind her, on the right, in profile facing right; he has a moustache and narrow brimmed hat. Shadows fall almost directly behind the woman, and slightly to left of her.
In the background is the vague indication of a shallow arch and, to left, a rough, narrow, ellipse. This may indicate the interior of a tavern or possibly the end of an enormous barrel. Only the title indicates that the woman is a wine-seller and suggests that the man is sitting drinking.


The woman has not been identified. Lochnan mentions that she is 'standing proudly upright in her regional dress'. 5

5: Lochnan 1984, p. 272.


The shop is in Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica. George Augustus Sala (1828-1895), who visited Ajaccio some years earlier, commented:
'the shops, well-stocked book and stationers warehouses excepted, are the merest hovels devoted to the sale of secondhand clothes, old rags and bones, pots and pans, and ship chandlery, to say nothing of an inordinate number of low buvettes and dram-shops, usually thronged from morning to night with sailors.' 6

6: G. A. Sala, A Journey due South: Travels in search of sunshine, 2nd edition, London, 1885, p. 148; see Hopkinson 2009c, at p. 67.


The scale and composition invite comparison with some of Whistler's earliest etchings, particularly La Mère Gérard [24].
Impression: K0110404
More indication of the space and context is given in Marchande de Vin, Ajaccio than in Mère Gérard. However, in both etchings, the carefully drawn clothes and features establish clearly the age and status of the women - the picturesque poverty and independent nature of Mère Gérard and the strong character of a working-class wine-seller in Ajaccio.
A late etching of similar title, Marchand de Vin, Paris [438], shows a shop front, probably in Paris.