Portrait of a man

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 73
Date: 1860
Medium: drypoint
Size: 229 x 154 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower left
Inscribed: '1860.'
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 30
Catalogues: K.63; M.63; T.72; W.58
Impressions taken from this plate  (30)


cape, cloak, clothing, dress, fashion, hat, interior, man seated, portrait.


The majority of writers, including Whistler, recorded this as a portrait of 'Mr Mann' until the identity of the sitter was queried in 1914. The main sources are as follows:

'Portrait' (1861, Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910)) 1
'Mr. Mann ' (1873/1874, Whistler). 2
'Mr. Mann' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 3
'Portrait of M. Mann' (1874, James Anderson Rose (1819-1890)). 4
'Mr Mann' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 5
'Mr Mann' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 6
'Mr. Mann' (Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), 1909). 7
'Mr Mann' (possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), 1903/1935). 8
'Mr. Davis' (Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), 1914). 9
'Portrait of a Man' (2012, Whistler Etchings Project).

The only record of the title in the 1860s, by Whistler's brother-in-law, Haden, does not identify the sitter. Whistler, writing on an impression of the drypoint in the early 1870s, called this portrait 'Mr. Mann'. Whistler's wife was probably following Wedmore's catalogue or Whistler himself in calling it 'Mr Mann', but it does suggest that Whistler did not query the title.

It is possible that Mansfield, writing 35 years later was wrong in calling it 'Mr. Davis', but his account is very convincing, and he was sure that it was a portrait of Henry Newnham Davis.

Since the identity of the sitter has not been resolved it has been decided to call it 'Portrait of a Man'.

1: Ledger, V&A Register of Prints, p. 32.

2: Written in pencil on Graphic with a link to impression #K0630101.

3: Thomas 1874 (cat. no. 72).

4: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 483).

5: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 58).

6: List, [1890/1892], GUW #12715.

7: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 63).

8: Envelope containing copper plate, Hunterian Art Gallery.

9: Mansfield 1914.


A three-quarter length portrait of a sturdy middle-aged man, with bushy side-whiskers reaching right down to his chin. He faces slightly to the right, while looking toward the front. He wears a 'wide-awake' hat and a large loose cloak. Behind him is wood panelling to shoulder height, ornamented with a miniature balustrade, and behind that, a panelled wall. He is strongly lit from the right.


At some time in the early 1870s Whistler wrote 'Mr. Mann' on an impression of this drypoint for Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #). Impressions of Whistler's drypoint were exhibited in the USA as 'Mr Mann' or 'Portrait of Mr Mann' in 1881, 1893, 1898, 1900, 1901, 1902 and 1903. 10

Mansfield catalogued Whistler's drypoint in 1909 as 'Mr Mann' but later asserted that it was 'Mr Davis'. He reproduced a photograph (shown below), which was said to be of James Hargrave Mann, arguing that it did not look like the man in Whistler's drypoint. 11 This is perfectly true but he may have been mistaken in the identification of the soldier.

Comparative image

10: New York 1881 (cat. no. 81) et seq.; see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

11: H. Mansfield, 'Concerning a Whistler Portrait: "Mr. Mann" or "Mr. Davis",' Print Collector's Quarterly, 4, No. 4 (1914), pp. 383-91.

Thomas, writing in 1874, had asserted that the sitter was 'The father of Mr. J. H. S. Mann, the artist, in wide-awake and cloak.' 12

The artist's father was James Hargrave Mann (ca 1787-d. 1869), a floor-cloth and varnish manufacturer. He married Mary Elizabeth in 1815 in St Pancras Paris. In the 1861 census (a year after the date of Whistler's drypoint) their ages were given as 76 and 74. J.H. Mann's estate of 'under £14,000' was proved on 31 May 1869. 13

It is possible that Whistler's drypoint shows the son, rather than the 73-year-old father.

12: Thomas 1874 (cat. no. 72).

13: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills &c), 1861-1941.

Joshua Hargrave Sams Mann (1826-1887) was the son of Mary E. and James Hargrave Mann. 14 He was an artist, painter of figures and genre subjects including The Cauld Blast (1876, Royal Holloway), and Head of a girl, looking upwards (Watford Museum). J.H.S. Mann would have been 35 years old at the time of Whistler's portrait, and the man in Whistler's drypoint does look more like a mature 35 year old than man of over 70; however, the whiskers do not help identification, though very fetching.

14: London Metropolitan Archives (L.M.A.), St James, Clerkenwell, Day book of baptisms, P76/JS1, item 25.

J.H.S. Mann married Katharine Marion Williams, daughter of James Degnum Williams, on 21 February 1860 at St Mary, Putney. 15 Thus at the time of the drypoint he would have been newly married, and the portrait might possibly celebrate that occasion (though without including his wife!) By the 1871 census they had three sons, James H., Horace and Frederick, and a daughter, Katherine (aged 10, 8, 7 and 5 respectively). At the time of his death on 2 March 1886, J.H.S. Mann was living in the Parish of St Pancras, and probate of his estate of £2786.16.6 was granted on 15 April 1886 to his son Frederick, sole executor. 16

In 1890 and again in 1893, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) referred to the sitter as 'Mann', in letters to Whistler, who apparently did not dispute the title. 17

Comparative image

15: L.M.A., St Mary, Putney, Register of marriages, P95/MRY1, item 386, (acc. 2012).

16: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills &c), 1861-1941.

17: 26 November 1890, GUW #03992; 10 January 1893, #04000.

However, by 1914 Mansfield had completely changed his mind. He stated that Whistler's drypoint depicted the man shown above, Henry Newnham Davis (1826-1873), who lived at Silchester House, Hants. 18 The photograph certainly bears some resemblance to Whistler's portrait, including whiskers.

Henry Newnham Davis, the son of Sarah and William Davis, a bookseller in Southhampton Row, Bloomsbury, London, was born on 9 September 1826. 19 On 23 November 1852 he married Mary Newnham (1826-1909). According to the 1861 and 1871 censuses Henry Newnham Davis Sr was a non-practising architect, making a good living from investments, and living first in Kent Terrace and then Dorset Square, London. They had a large family: Nathaniel (1854-1917), Henry (1855-1925), Ellen Harriet (1856-1921), William Herbert (1858-1904), Anna (1859- post 1871), Arthur Porter (1861-1895), Alfred Sidney (1864-post 1930), Stanley Percy (b. 1866) and Stuart Gerald (1866- post 1917).

Nathaniel became a Lieutenant Colonel, journalist, food writer and minor playwright. Henry Jr was a solicitor and married Eleanor Alice Webber Smith in 1884, and at his death at The Grange, Silchester in 1925, left an estate of £22,891.2.11. Stuart was an artist living in 1911 in Tite Street.Ellen married Henry Humfrey Sealy (or Sealey), and died at 47 Cheyne Court, Chelsea. 20

Henry Newnham Davis Sr died on 1 March 1873 at 20 Dorset Square, leaving an estate of over £50,000. His widow survived him. 21

Apparently one of the sons of Henry Newnham Davis Sr told Mansfield that his father, sat for the portrait, and added that the artist had given him several impressions of the drypoint, which were still in the family. These have not been located and without them it is hard to be sure of the accuracy of these memories and second-hand accounts. Mansfield reproduced the two photographs reproduced above, said to be of Mann and Davis, to prove, to his satisfaction, that this was a portrait of Davis. 22

Lochnan accepted Mansfield's argument, stating that Whistler 'chose as his subject an amateur photographer called Henry Newnham Davis, ... Mr Joshua H. S. Mann and Mr Davis were both friends of Whistler at this time, and knew each other well.' 23 However, neither Mann nor Davis are mentioned in Whistler's correspondence at the time, and although they may have been friends, there is actually no record of it and any association remains shrouded in mystery.

Although Whistler wrote "Mr Mann" on one impression, both Mansfield and Lochnan blamed Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876) for the mistake - if it was a mistake. Mansfield suggested that either Whistler made a mistake in writing 'Mr. Mann' on the etching, which is possible, or that this particular impression was being given to Mr Mann, which is not true, since it was almost certainly signed for Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904).

The question is why - or indeed whether - Whistler, writing in 1873/1874, and other writers including Mansfield during Whistler's lifetime, made a mistake, or whether it was Mansfield, in 1914, who did so. 24

18: Mansfield 1914, op. cit.

19: Baptisms, Paris of St George, Bloomsbury, Middlesex, 1826,. p. 18.

20: Ellen's children included Mary Natalie (1888-1982), Cuthbert Collingwood (1891-post 1922), David Morgan (1893-1972) and Anna Eileen (1900-1974).

21: (accessed 2012). I am very grateful to Tahitia McCabe for her help on this genealogical survey.

22: Mansfield 1914, ibid..

23: Lochnan 1984, p. 112.

24: Curiously, to complicate matters further, in 1874 James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) recorded a 'Portrait of M. Davis' but, judging from the description, this was Z. Astruc, Editor of 'L'Artiste' [36].Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 475).


Comparative image
Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn (1617-1681), Clement de Jonghe, print-seller, 1651, etching,
The Hunterian, GLAHA 354.

Lochnan compares the portrait with Rembrandt's etching of Clement de Jonghe, print-seller, 25 which was greatly admired by Whistler:

25: C.White & K.G. Boon, Rembrandt's etchings, an illustrated critical catalogue, Amsterdam & New York, 1970, cat. no. 272).

'there are overt references in the high hat and Inverness cape worn by the sitter, as well as in the seated pose and penetrating gaze of the sitter. On an impression of Clement de Jonghe, now in the Art Institute of Chicago, Whistler paid his highest tribute to a single work of art, inscribing on the mount, "Without a flaw! Beautiful as a Greek marble or a canvas by Tintoret. A masterpiece in all its elements, beyond which there is nothing." ' 26

26: Lochnan 1984, p. 112.

Whistler actually cited Clement de Jonghe in ironic comment on the idea of etching a "big plate"': 'the inevitable pitfall of the amateur - ... Poor meek Rembrant [sic]! - with his mild miniatures - beside such colossal deeds how dwarfed he becomes! how uninteresting his puny portraits of diminutive Burgomaster Siegmund Clement de Young'. 27

27: Whistler to M.B. Huish, [21/26 January 1880], GUW #02992