The Little Velvet Dress

Impression: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Number: 119
Date: 1873
Medium: drypoint
Size: 166 x 122 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 27
Catalogues: K.106; M.106; W.92
Impressions taken from this plate  (27)


It was published in an album of Cancelled Plates ('Cancelled Set') by The Fine Art Society, London, 1879.


It is very likely that this was among the works exhibited as 'Dry Point, Portrait' at Whistler's one-man show in London in 1874. 8

A few years later, Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) lent what he called a 'Trial Proof' to the Union League Club in New York in 1881 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1060206). 9

In 1893 an impression was shown with prints and plates by Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) in Liverpool and the local newspaper commented that it came from the collection of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892). 10 An impression from the collection of Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) was shown in New York by the print dealers H. Wunderlich & Co. and bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1060202). 11 Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent another early impression to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 and the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in Boston in 1904 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1060001). 12

In addition two states were exhibited in the comprehensive Memorial Show at the Grolier Club, New York in 1904. Finally John Charles Sigismund Day (1826-1908) lent an impression to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. 13

8: London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. nos. 6, 22, 24, 25, 27, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 50).

9: New York 1881 (cat. no. 127). See REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

10: Anon., 'Art Notes', Liverpool Mercury, 18 March 1893.

11: New York 1898 (cat. no. 87) .

12: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 87); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 75).

13: New York 1904a (cat. nos. 96, 96b); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 92).


Early collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1060206), William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1060203), James Guthrie Orchar (1825-1888) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1060z01), and James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1060202). The latter was sold at auction on 30 June 1876, and probably bought at that time by Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910). The sitter's husband, Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), owned an impression, and at the sale of his collection at Christie's, 24 February 1893 (lot 191) 'The Little Velvet Dress' was bought by the London print dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851).
Haden's impression was sold with his collection to H. Wunderlich & Co., who exhibited it in 1898 and sold it on 9 November 1898 to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919). Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) owned an early impression, possibly in the 1890s (when it was returned to Whistler for a signature), which was later sold through A. A. Hahlo & Co., New York, to Harris G. Whittemore (d. ca 1937), and eventually bought by the Library of Congress (Graphic with a link to impression #K1060001). Avery's impression was left to New York Public Library; Alexander's passed to his family and many years later, in 1973, to the British Museum; and Orchar's was left to the Orchar Gallery, and ended up in the McManus Art Galleries and Museum, Dundee. An impression was also owned by the artist's sister-in-law, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), and passed from her to the Hunterian Art Gallery (Graphic with a link to impression #K1060304).