The Muff

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 131
Date: 1874
Medium: drypoint
Size: 126 x 75 mm
Signed: butterfly at right (3-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 11
Catalogues: K.113; M.112; W.126
Impressions taken from this plate  (11)


In a printed announcement of the publication of The Two Ships [143] and Tatting [130] by Messrs Dowdeswell in January 1880, it was mentioned that 'TATTING' was 'A COMPANION TO THE MUFF, BY THE SAME ARTIST.' 8 This is surprising because as far as is known, The Muff had not been published or exhibited, and was little known.

8: Dowdeswell's to C. A. Howell, GUW #02856.

An impression was printed from the cancelled plate (Graphic with a link to impression #K1130401) possibly with the intention of including it in a set of cancelled etchings and drypoints published by the Fine Art Society in London in 1879. However, it was not included in the set as published.


An impression was shown at the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1888, lent by Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924) (probably Graphic with a link to impression #K1130204). 9

Impressions were later exhibited by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1898 and 1903. Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought an impression from the 1898 exhibition and lent it to a show organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1130001). 10

Impressions were shown in the principal Memorial Exhibitions held after Whistler's death, including the Grolier Club, New York in 1904 and Whistler Memorial show in London in 1905, to which one was lent from the Royal Collection; it was sold shortly after, but has not been located. 11

9: Glasgow 1888 (cat. no. 2552-1)

10: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 114). See REFERENCE : EXHIBITIONS.

11: New York 1904a (cat. no. 130); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 126).


In 1877 Whistler sold several impressions at £6.6.0 a time: one to Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890) on 19 October, and others to the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle and Messrs Hogarth, London print dealers. 12 It was probably one of these that was bought by Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934), and later owned by Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1130103).

Early collectors included Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1130204) and James Guthrie Orchar (1825-1888) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1130302), who left his collection to the Orchar Art Gallery in Broughty Ferry, whence it came to the McManus Art Galleries and Museum, Dundee. Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) left his impression - a rather later, softer impression - to help form the print collection of New York Public Library (Graphic with a link to impression #K1130304).

12: To Howell, 12 October-5 November [1877], GUW #12735; to Queen Victoria, [19/22 October 1877], #12736; to Hogarth, 22-27 October [1877], #12737.

By 1887 the price had gone up. After publication of the catalogue by Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921), Messrs Dowdeswell asked Whistler for impressions of a number of etchings and drypoints, including The Muff, and the artist sent one on 27 July 1887 for £8.8.0, only to have it returned. 13 On 20 July 1889 he sold another (possibly the same) impression to Roland F. Knoedler (1856-1932), also for £8.8.0. 14

At auction it fetched much less. At the sale of the important collection of Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) in 1892 a 'trial proof, before the monogram' was bought by Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) of Deprez & Gutekunst for £2.15.0 and an impression 'with the monogram' was bought by 'Blunt' for £2.12.6. 15 Both states were bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), the early proof from Wunderlich's of New York, in 1898 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1130001) and the later one, a fine impression with rich burr, from Deprez immediately after the 1892 sale (Graphic with a link to impression #K1130102).

At the sale of the collection of William Richard Drake (1817-1890) at Christie’s, 8-9 March 1892 (lot 308), an impression was bought by 'Thomas' (possibly Percy Thomas (1846-1922) or one of his family) for £3.5.0.

13: 4 February 1887, GUW #00888; 27 July 1887, #08677; Dowdeswell to Whistler, 10 August 1887, #00892.

14: GUW #13080.

15: Sotheby’s, 3 March 1892 (lots 211, 212).