The Wine Glass

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 38
Date: 1859
Medium: etching
Size: 83 x 55 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 40
Catalogues: K.27; M.27; T.28; W.31
Impressions taken from this plate  (40)


glass, still-life.


The etching shows a wine glass and the titles show only minor variations:

'Le verre à vin' (1859, Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910)). 3
'The wine glass' (1872, British Museum). 4
'Wine Glass' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 5
'A Wine Glass' (1881, Union League Club). 6
'The Wine Glass' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 7
'Wineglass' (1891, Whistler). 8
'The Wine-Glass' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 9

Wedmore's title 'The Wine Glass' has been accepted as definitive.

3: Haden to A. Delâtre, 29 June [1859], GUW #13140.

4: B.M. Register of Purchases ... 1872.

5: Thomas 1874 (cat. no. 28).

6: New York 1881 (cat. no. 46).

7: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 31).

8: Whistler to W. G. Churcher, [27 November 1891], GUW #09040.

9: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 26).


A shallow wine glass (Mansfield described it as a champagne glass) stands, empty, on a small silver tray or coaster. 10 The tray has a scalloped rim, and probably stands on three small feet (one is visible to left of centre). It is strongly lit from the left. The background is shadowed.

10: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 26).


This is Whistler's only still life, although he incorporated still life details into several other etchings, such as Reading by Lamplight [37].

Wedmore commented reverently, 'This is the only still-life piece ever wrought by Mr Whistler. It gleams like a De Heem or a Blaise Desjoffe.' 11 This was rather overstating the case. Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606-1684) was one of the finest Dutch still-life painters, and paintings such as his sumptuous Fruits et riche vaisselle sur une table, 1640 (musée du Louvre) contain glittering images of glass and silver that outshine Whistler's study. Among Wedmore's contemporaries, Alexandre Blaise Desgoffe (1830-1901), a French painter of still life, was admired for depicting crystal and jewelry, such as Objects of Art from the Louvre, 1874 (Metropolitan Museum of Art). 12

11: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 31).

12: See de Heem in; and Desgoffe, oil on canvas, 73 x 92.1 cm, 87.15.119 in (acc. 2012).

Pennell also made somewhat over-generous comparisons, stating that in such etchings Whistler 'eclipsed Jacquemart'. 13 Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart (1837-1880) etched a series of Gemmes et Joyaux de la Couronne au Musee du Louvre that were published in 1865 by Henri Barbet de Jouy, and include a crystal goblet or chalice. 14 This is different in one important respect from Whistler's wine glass: it is shown isolated, as in a catalogue, to show off the precise details of the cut glass.

Other comparable studies include A glass of water on a table etched by Edward John Poynter (1836-1919) in 1860, 15 and a charcoal drawing of A Wine Glass by Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) dating from about 1858. 16 Haden's A Wine Glass was half-full, not the same (empty) one etched by Whistler, but drawn about the same time. Both Haden and Whistler were, Lochnan suggests, influenced by Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn (1617-1681): 'The scale, style and subjects recall Rembrandt, and it is more than likely that Whistler was poring over Haden's growing Rembrandt collection at this time'. 17

Rembrandt's The Shell (1850), with its richly cross-hatched shadows and exprssive detail, is certainly a possible influence on Whistler's etching. 18

13: Pennell 1908, p. 217.

14: 1864, i.e. Indianapolis Museum of Art, 47.124 at (acc. 2012).

15: Etching and drypoint, British Museum 1980,0201.1.

16: Albright-Knox Art Gallery 1891:3.213 at (accessed 2012).

17: Lochnan 1984, pp. 59-60.

18: British Museum PD 1868-8-22-672 (Hind 248, Bartsch 159) (acc. 2012).