Nocturne: Palaces

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 200
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 298 x 202 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left (12)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 12
Known impressions: 54
Catalogues: K.202; M.199; W.168
Impressions taken from this plate  (54)


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 galleries in Bond Street, London, in 1883. In the catalogue designed and written by Whistler, he selected earlier comments, torn from context, as comments and complements to his prints. For this Nocturne he selected a cryptic (and anonymous) press-cutting: '"An unpleasing thing - framed in Mr Whistler's odd fashion." City Press'. 14 The frames for the etchings were white with incised parallel black lines.

One critic admired its 'broad treatment', another (John Forbes-Roberston), its 'richness of effect'. 15 Another critic, from the Building News, commented:

14: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 12).

15: Anon., 'Mr. Whistler', unidentified press-cutting, [February/March 1883], (GUL pc 3/44); Pictorial World, 31 March 1883 (GUL PC 8/8).

'"San Giorgio" is a scene in which there are only a few scratches to represent vessels, but there are tone and gradation; so with the etchings [sic] of "Nocturne Palaces": the balconies and features are not drawn with any care for architectural neatness, the shadows are only represented by a few "furry" looking lines, and the usual rubbed in colour for sea and sky.' 16

16: Anon., 'Mr Whistler's Etchings', Building News, 23 February 1883 (GUL PC6/42).

Curiously, the Coventry Standard must have confused this image with that of The Palaces [223] because it commented that 'all the delicacy of Venetian architecture is reproduced with the utmost fidelity' - which is absolutely not true. 17

Ten years later, an impression was lent to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago by Howard Mansfield (1849-1938), who had selected the panel of Whistler's prints, and in 1902 he lent one to the Annual Exhibition in Philadelphia. After Whistler's death, Mansfield lent his impression to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in Boston in 1904; Frank Lusk Babbott (1854-1903) also lent an impression to that show. 18

17: Anon., Coventry Standard, 23 February 1883 (GUL PC6/42).

18: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2248 (1665)); Philadelphia 1902 (cat. no. 947 (168)); Boston 1904 (cat. nos. 133, 134).

Impressions were lent by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020802) and Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (either Graphic with a link to impression #K2020103, Graphic with a link to impression #K2020702 or Graphic with a link to impression #K2020803) to an exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900. 19 Two were included in the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1901, one lent by James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901) and the other by Andrew Reid. 20 Other impressions were shown in 1901 at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, and in 1902 at the Art and Industrial Exhibition in Wolverhampton.

It appeared in several print dealer's shows, at H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, in 1898 (possibly Graphic with a link to impression #K2020502) and 1903, F. Keppel & Co., also in New York, in 1902 and 1904, and at Obach & Co. in London in 1903. 21

19: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 148).

20: Glasgow 1901 (cat. nos. 212, 237).

21: New York 1898 (cat. no. 147); see REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

Four impressions, illustrating various states and printing effects, were shown at the Grolier Club in New York in 1904, and single impressions at the Whistler Memorial Exhibitions in Paris and London in 1905; a year later John Charles Sigismund Day (1826-1908) lent one to the major exhibition of Whistler's work in Rotterdam. 22

22: New York 1904a (cat. nos. 170 a, c, d, e); Rotterdam 1906 (cat. no. 78).


Whistler sold an impression in August 1882 to Wickham Flower (b. ca 1836) for £6.6.0, and another on 12 September 1882 to H.M. The Queen. 23

Thereafter most impressions were sold by the publishers, and indeed Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau gave a beautiful impression to the British Museum, London, in 1887 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020805). Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) sold an impression to H. Wunderlich & Co. of New York in May 1888, which they in turn sold with a complete 'Second Venice Set' to Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020706). Thibaudeau sold another to Wunderlich's on 2 May 1888; this had a complicated history, being sold to A.J Forbes Leith (1847-1925) in 1889, returned in 1890, sold again in 1891, and eventually passed from Mr and Mrs Horatio Greenough Curtis (1844 - ca 1923) to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

23: GUW #12989, #13072.

In 1887 Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought an impression - certainly from the main 1886 edition - from Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020702) of F. Keppel & Co. Wunderlich's sold another fine impression to Freer in 1893 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020803). Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936) bought an impression from Keppel, some years later, in 1904 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020709).
At auction, prices were lower than those obtained by Whistler or the publishers. For instance, one was sold at Christie’s, 27 November 1888 (lot 167) as 'Nocturne - Palaces' and bought by Obach's for £2.0.0. Another impression, sold from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) at Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 263), was bought by Keppel for £4.5.0. By contrast, Keppel had bought another, a '1st proof', from Whistler on 13 January 1891 for £8.8.0 (possibly Graphic with a link to impression #K2020103). 24 Whistler was allowed to sell such early proofs, considered 'printer's proofs', which were an accepted perquisite, and sold outside the published edition. Many years later, in 1906, this was bought from Rouillier, Chicago print dealer, by Freer.

24: GUW #13068.

Other early collectors included Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020302); George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020603); John Henry Wrenn (1841-1911) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020907); Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020z07); Bernard Buchanan MacGeorge (1845?-1924) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020605); Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020802); Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020707);William Bayard Cutting (1850–1912) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020807); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020809); Clarence Buckingham (1855-1913) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020102); Herschel V. Jones (1861-1928) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020z04); Atherton Curtis (1863-1944) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2020810) and Walter Stanton Brewster (1872-1954) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2021002, Graphic with a link to impression #K2021004).