The Seamstress

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 253
Date: 1886
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 99 x 66 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 4
Catalogues: K.252; M.248; W.206
Impressions taken from this plate  (4)


The Seamstress was never published.


It was rare and rarely exhibited. An impression was exhibited by Messrs Obach & Co. in London in 1903. This was probably the impression bought from Obach's by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2520102). 13 John Charles Sigismund Day (1826-1908) lent an impression to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2520103) which was also bought by Freer from Obach's. 14

Impressions were also shown by H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York in 1903, and at the Grolier Club, also in New York, in 1904. 15

13: London Obach 1903 (cat. no. 176).

14: London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 206). See REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

15: New York 1903b (cat. no. 166); New York 1904a (cat. no. 214).


The London art dealers, Messrs Dowdeswell, after consulting the newly published catalogue by Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921), requested impressions of a number of etchings in February 1887. 16 By 8 February Whistler was at work printing the copper plates to satisfy their order. He sent a large batch of etchings (54 in all) including two impressions of 'The Seamstress' priced at £3.3.0 each on 27 July. 17 Dowdeswell's may have bought another 'Seamstress' in 1889 (it is listed but marked with 'x' which might mean it was kept or the opposite). 18

Whistler also sold '1 The Seamstress' for £3.3.0 to Messrs Wunderlich & Co. in 1891. 19

At the sale of the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) at Sotheby’s on 3 March 1892 (lot 309) a 'trial proof' was bought by 'Russell' for the low price of £0.18.0 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2520104) , which was obviously much less than Whistler was getting at that time. It was acquired by Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935), and later by Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1971), who gave it to the National Gallery of Art.

16: Dowdeswell's to Whistler, 4 February 1887, GUW #00888.

17: 27 July 1887, GUW #08677.

18: 3 August 1889, GUW #13092.

19: 6 April 1891, GUW #13097.

Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) owned one impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K2520105), as did Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2520101) and John Caldwell (fl. 1887-1907) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2520201). Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought two impressions from Obach & Co., one in 1903 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2520102) and one, originally owned by John Charles Sigismund Day (1826-1908), in 1909 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2520103).