Little Steps, Chelsea

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 269
Date: 1886
Medium: etching
Size: 51 x 86 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 5
Catalogues: K.262; M.258; W.213
Impressions taken from this plate  (5)


The Steps was not published.


Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent his impression to an exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2620204). 14

Others were exhibited in print dealer's shows, by H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, and Obach & Co. in London, in 1903.

Impressions were also exhibited in the Memorial shows after Whistler's death, including the Grolier Club in New York in 1904 and, lent from the collection of King Edward VII, in London in 1905. 15

14: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 183). See REFERENCES: EXHIBITIONS.

15: New York 1904a (cat. no. 222); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 213).


Messrs Dowdeswell, after consulting the newly published catalogue by Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921), requested impressions of a number of etchings including The Steps, in February 1887. 16 However, there are several etchings with similar subjects and titles, which makes it almost impossible to trace later transactions. Etchings showing similar street scenes with conspicuous steps include The Little Rag Shop, Milman's Row [265], The Rag Shop, Milman's Row [290] and Rag Shop, Milman's Row, Chelsea [329].

In 1888 Whistler sold Dowdeswell's impressions of 'The Steps - Milman Row' and 'Milman Row. The Steps' at £6.6.0. 17 In 1890 he sold the same firm 'Steps Chelsea' for a guinea less, £5.5.0. 18 It is likely that the 1888 sales refer to other etchings, while the 1890 sale refers to The Steps.

The Steps was certainly rare, and the only record of a sale at auction was with the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) at Sotheby's, 3 March 1892 (lot 311), when it was bought by Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) of Deprez & Gutekunst; by 1902 this was with Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) of F. Keppel & Co., in New York, and it was finally bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2620202).

16: 4 February 1887 , GUW #00888.

17: 1 and 10 February 1888, GUW #00900; see also Wunderlich's, [January/June 1894], #07271.

18: GUW #13805.