Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 236
Date: 1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 209 x 135 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left (2)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 42
Catalogues: K.199; M.196; W.165
Impressions taken from this plate  (42)


It was published by Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau with A Set of Twenty-six Etchings (the 'Second Venice Set') in 1886.

Whistler delivered in all 1093 prints and was paid £2.10.6 for printing each dozen prints. 13

13: Dowdeswell to Whistler, invoice 16 July 1887, GUW #00891.


It was first shown at the Fine Art Society, London, in 1883; in the catalogue entry, Whistler provocatively quoted Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921), as writing 'They say very little to the mind', and the Edinburgh Courant's comment, 'It is the artist's pleasure to have them there, and we can't help it.' 14

The Saturday Review responded with its own brand of humour :

14: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 7).

'They do indeed say very little to the mind; they say very little to the eye; they might as well be eagles or geese or ducklings or dodos for all that one can find out from their drawing; nor do any of the other things represented help out their poverty with any excellence. Indeed the work is nothing less than, at least in the older sense of the word, an impertinence, a thing which has nothing to say in the matter in hand, if that matter is taken to be anything like an artisitic or even plausible representation of existent things.' 15

15: 'Mr Whistler's Exhibition', Saturday Review, 24 February 1883 (GUL PC 25/32).

The etching then travelled to a reprise of the same show at H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1883 and caught the attention of the New York Mail and Express, which apparently had no problems at all in interpreting and appreciating the subject :
'it is really a genre picture, brimful of humanity, although the slightest memorandum only. If the critics have allowed themselves to be baited by the title, Turkeys, so much the worse for them. Any one conversant with the titles of old etchings knows that they are often based upon some little, in itself unimportant, peculiarity which serves much better to specify them than a sentimental title of the usual sort. And this is true also of his little picture of life in a back-yard of Venice, with the old man and the woman and her baby on the stoop, over which vines are clambering, and the younger woman and man down in the yard itself, by the old well, with the anchor alongside of it, which latter shows us that these people are of the sea-faring kind. Not even the housecat has been forgotten, and perhaps the turkeys are after all not as unimportant a peculiarity as we at first took them to be, for who knows but the whole family is thinking of them with a view to next Sunday's dinner.' 16

16: Anon., 'The Whistler Exhibition', New York Mail and Express, 24 October 1883 (GUL PC3/61, PC4/12).

It was also shown in later print dealer's exhibitions - particularly by H. Wunderlich & Co. (1898, 1903) and F. Keppel & Co. (1902) in New York, and a 'trial proof' at Obach & Co., in London in 1903. 17

An impression was shown at the New York Etching Club show at the National Academy of Design in 1889. Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent one to a show organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990102). 18 An impression was included in a large group of etchings lent by James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901) to the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1901. 19

After Whistler's death, it was shown in the Memorial Exhibitions in New York, Boston, Paris and London. Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) lent an impression to the Whistler Memorial Show in London in 1905. 20

17: New York 1898; New York 1903b (cat. no. 128); London Obach 1903 (cat. nos. 141, 142)

18: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 145). See REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

19: Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 216).

20: New York 1904a (cat. no. 165); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 165).


Sales by Whistler himself, before publication, included one sold for £4.4.0 to the London print dealer, Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832), in 1882, and to the Fine Art Society in London in 1884; a sale after publication, to Wunderlich's in New York in 1897, was made at the same price. 21

Most sales were made by the publishers Messrs Dowdeswell after 1886. However, Whistler was also allowed to give away or sell the proofs of new states, and apparently gave one impression of the second state to George Moore (1852-1933); it has not been located. 22

Among the later sales, another London print dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), bought one impression from Whistler, for £10.10.0 in December 1902, possibly for a Christmas present, and another - presumably a choice one - for £14.14.0, in June 1903, just before the artist's death. 23

At auction, impressions brought much lower prices, and were bought mainly by print dealers. One fetched only £1.1.0 in 1888; then, at the 1892 sale of the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891), another - a second state - fetched £2.2.0 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990102). By comparison, a complete second Venice set, from the collection of Mrs Edward Fisher, fetched £82.0.0 in 1897. 24

21: 28 August 1882, GUW #13643; [23 June 1884], GUW #01175; September 1897, GUW #07287.

22: Catalogue of Etchings, Drypoints, Wood Engravings and Lithographs, Anderson Galleries, [New York], 10 April 1919, priced $975.

23: 24 December 1902, GUW #13040; 17 June 1903, #13042.

24: Christie's, 27 November 1888 (lot 164), bought by Gustave Lauser (b. ca 1841); Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 260), bought 'Blunt'; Christie's, 13-14 July 1897 (lot 316), bought by Colnaghi's.

European collectors included Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990202); Ernest Stephen Lumsden (1883-1968) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990109); Otto Gerstenberg (1848-1935) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990204) and Atherton Curtis (1863-1944) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990209). Several impressions were bequeathed by Whistler to his siter-in-law Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) and passed by her to the University of Glasgow (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990203, Graphic with a link to impression #K1990304, Graphic with a link to impression #K1990306, Graphic with a link to impression #K1990303).
According to Mansfield, in 1909 impressions of the first state were in the 'Benedict, Havemeyer, & Scholle Collections'. 25 One of these may have been the first state given by Mr and Mrs J. Watson Webb to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in memory of Mr and Mrs H. O. Havemeyer (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990112) but the impressions owned by Albert W. Scholle (1860-1917) and Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) have not been identified. Other American collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990201); Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), who bought one from F. Keppel & Co. in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990104) and another from E. G. Deprez in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990105); George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990106); Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924), who bought it as part of a complete set from Wunderlich's (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990205); Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990211); Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990102); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990107); Charles Deering (1852-1927) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990103); Ralph King (1855-1926) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990z05); and Walter Stanton Brewster (1872-1954) (Graphic with a link to impression #K1990302, Graphic with a link to impression #K1990307).

25: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 196).