La Marchande de Moutarde

Impression: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Number: 20
Date: 1858
Medium: etching
Size: 157 x 90 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower left
Inscribed: 'Imp. Delatre. Rue St. Jacques. 171.' (2-3); crossed out (4); removed (5)
Set/Publication: 'French Set', 1858
No. of States: 5
Known impressions: 75
Catalogues: K.22; M.22; T.11; W.16
Impressions taken from this plate  (75)


clothing, dress, food, interior, girl, mustard seller, pottery, shop, woman standing, worker.


The title 'La Marchande de Moutarde' was used by Whistler and the majority of cataloguers, as follows:

'La Marchande de Moutarde' (1858, Whistler). 2
'La Marchande de Moutarde' (1858/1870s, Whistler). 3
'La marchande de moutarde (Cologne)' (1859, Salon, Paris). 4
'La Marchande de Moutarde' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 5
'An Old Woman' (1875, Cincinnati). 6

The addition of a place (Cologne) in the Salon catalogue is interesting, because the etching is based on a drawing entitled 'Marchand de Potions in Cologne'.
However, the original title, and that generally accepted by later cataloguers was 'La Marchande de Moutarde' which means 'The Mustard Seller'.

2: Douze eaux-fortes d'après Nature.

3: Inscribed on Graphic with a link to impression #K0220301.

4: Paris Salon 1859 (cat. no. 3673).

5: Thomas 1874 (cat. no. 11).

6: Cincinnati 1875 (cat. no. 255).


A young girl in a long dress, facing right, stands leaning on the left door-post of a narrow stone doorway. She is lit from the left, and her face is in shadow; her hair is held by a ribbon. The door has a slightly arched lintel, and above it is a barred window. In the interior an old woman wearing a shawl and a white bonnet stands facing left, bending over a table on which are a box and several large earthenware jars. Smaller jars are ranged on a shelf above her, to left, supported by a large bracket. Light is coming from the left, from an unseen source, presumably another window.


The old lady was identified in a sketch as a seller of 'Poterie' (pottery) or 'moutarde' (mustard) (La Marchande de Poterie à Cologne [m0272], and La Marchande de Moutarde [m0273]). 7 She appears to be sealing the tops of pots, presumably of home-made mustard. Mustard is popular in Cologne; Halve Hahn (gouda cheese and mustard on rye bread) is a local speciality.

7: Mansfield thought that the drawing was inscribed 'Marchand de Potions in Cologne' (Mansfield 1909).


Comparative image
La Marchande de Poterie à Cologne [m0272].
Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
The etching is based on two drawings done in Cologne, La Marchande de Poterie à Cologne [m0272], reproduced above, and La Marchande de Moutarde [m0273], shown below. The city of Cologne in Germany was visited by Whistler during his etching tour of the Rhineland in 1858.
Comparative image
La Marchande de Moutarde [m0273].
Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

The etching was exhibited as 'La marchande de moutarde (Cologne)' in 1859. 8 The precise site has not been identified. Other etchings based on Whistler's Rhineland sketches include An Artist Sketching [23].

8: Paris Salon 1859 (cat. no. 3673).


Lochnan suggested that the composition derived ultimately from Dutch art, particularly the work of Pieter de Hooch. Among contemporaries, Lochnan cited as comparable an 1855 painting by François Bonvin (1817-1887), Paysanne tricotant (Musée Courbet et institute Gustave Courbet à Ornans). It shows a woman in white bonnet and plaid shawl standing in profile to left, knitting, standing in a doorway, against a dark interior. She also commented on a possible relationship with the etchings of Charles Jacque (1813-1894):
'The etching depends for its effectiveness on complex linear patterns; although the basic composition was worked out in the drawing, the lines, especially around the doorway, were considerably elaborated in the etching. The linear vocabulary recalls Jacque's etching Récureuse, G.33, with its careful description of crumbling plaster and objects hanging on the wall.' 9

9: Lochnan 1984, pp. 46-47.