Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 231
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 240 x 311 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left (1-2); replaced with new butterfly (3-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 7
Catalogues: K.190; M.187
Impressions taken from this plate  (7)


It was not published.


Traghetto was rare and rarely exhibited. An impression was lent by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1900103). 12 An impression was lent by James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901) to an International exhibition in Glasgow in 1901. In New York, one was for sale and on show by the New York print dealer, H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1903 and, after Whistler's death, one hung in the comprehensive show at the Grolier Club in 1904. 13

12: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 137).

13: Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 242); New York 1903 (cat. no. 71); New York 1904a (cat. no. 157).


Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909), who described the history of this etching, and watched Whistler working on it, acquired two impressions of the third state in Venice, one of which was later owned by Charles Deering (1852-1927) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1900302), and another that Bacher sold to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1904 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1900304). Finally E. Gottschalk (dates unknown) owned another third state, which he sold to Freer in 1907 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1900303). Thus Freer had three of the six known impressions of this rare etching.
In 1887 Whistler sold an impression for £21.0.0 to the London print dealer, Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832), noting that it was a 'Proof of destroyed plate, same subject as 'The Traghetto' I believe only two proofs pulled'. 14 This was misleading, for six and a half (!) impressions have survived. Whistler sold one in 1891 to the New York print dealer Frederick Keppel (1845-1912), listing it as ' "Traghetto" 1st Proof. destroyed plate; unique' (Graphic with a link to impression #K1900103). 15

Whistler had also written directly to Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) on 4 July 1892, selling another impression that he claimed to be the 'first proof': 'I have found ... the first proof of the Traghetto - pulled on old wooden Press in Venice, as you will see marked on back - consequently a tit bit for one of your collectors - ' 16 For this he received £12.12.0. 17 This was probably the impression bought by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), on which Mansfield wrote: 'Perhaps only impression of first state. The plate was destroyed and a new etching made of the subject. H.M.' (Graphic with a link to impression #K1900103).

14: [October/November] 1887, GUW #13014.

15: 13 May 1891, GUW #13068.

16: GUW #09689.

17: E.G. Kennedy to Whistler, 6 July 1892, GUW #07196.

Another impression of the first state was acquired by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) from Obach & Co. on 11 July 1903. It was annotated by Whistler 'Second impression. First State.' and 'proof of a destroyed plate - same subject as the "Traghetto", which took its place, + is one of the Venice First Series-' (Graphic with a link to impression #K1900102).
The artist also owned a half destroyed impression, which, on his death in 1903, was bequeathed to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1900103).
A second state was also on the market in London, possibly owned first by Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934), and bought later by Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936), who bequeathed it to the University of Michigan (Graphic with a link to impression #K1900202).