Fleur-de-lys Passage

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 360
Date: 1887
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 185 x 82 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 11
Catalogues: K.289; M.286; W.233
Impressions taken from this plate  (11)


Fleur-de-lys Passage was not published. However, it forms one of Whistler's unpublished but clearly defined 'Houndsditch Set'.


An impression was lent by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago in 1900 (Graphic with a link to impression #K2890302). 11 No other exhibitions are known until the year of Whistler's death in 1903, when impressions were shown by Obach & Co. in London and H. Wunderlich & Co. in New York, and one was bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) (Graphic with a link to impression #K2890303) at the latter. 12

In the following year one was exhibited at the Grolier Club in New York. Finally in 1905 King Edward VII lent one to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London (Graphic with a link to impression #K2890102). 13

11: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 203); see REFERENCES : EXHIBITIONS.

12: New York 1903b (cat. no. 183).

13: New York 1904a (cat. no. 246); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 233).


The first sale recorded was on 17 November 1887 when Whistler sold one 'Fleur [de] Lis passage' to the London print dealer, Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832) for £10.10.0. On 16 December 1887 an impression was offered by Whistler's son, Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870-1935), to another print dealer, W. Craibe Angus in Glasgow, also for £10.10.0. 14

14: GUW #13016, #01959.

On 7 February 1888 Whistler acknowledged payment of £10.10.0 received for 'Fleur de Lis Passage Houndsditch' from the London art dealers, Messrs Dowdeswell. 15 There are small variations in the title as given in the different sales records. The overlapping orders and receipts are not entirely clear but they seem to have bought another two 'Fleur des Lis Passage' on 10 February. 16 One was almost certainly sold by Dowdeswell's to Henry Studdy Theobald (1847-1934) and acquired later by Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936), who bequeathed it to the University of Michigan Art Museum (Graphic with a link to impression #K2890203).

15: Whistler to Dowdeswell, GUW #13026.

16: GUW #13027.

In 1888 H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, ordered an impression as part of a much larger order. However, they wrote:
'We beg to acknowledge the receipt of the etchings which arrived from the Custom House this evening ... There is time to inform you before the mail closes, that we shall look them over carefully, make our selection, send those not retained to Mr Winans, and advise you promptly, which proofs have been selected. Upon checking off the list we find that one of the proofs #48 "Fleur de lis - passage" is missing. We have looked for it carefully, but there is not the slightest trace of it, so it must have been omitted in London.' 17

17: Kennedy to Whistler, 20 April 1888, GUW #07157.

It is not clear if they found it or if Whistler sent another, but by 14 May 1888 a receipt by Whistler included '48 - Fleur des Lis Passage - Houndsditch' at £10.10.0. 18 As Wunderlich's became Whistler's main American agents, they bought an impression for £6.6.0, after their discount. 19

Whistler often received much higher prices than were seen at auction. For instance, an impression from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) was sold at Sotheby’s, 3 March 1892 (lot 314) and bought by the London print dealer Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) for only £3.5.0.

18: GUW #13659.

19: Wunderlich's to Whistler, 6 April 1900, GUW #07322.

The first proof was retained by the artist, bequeathed by Whistler in 1903 to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), and bequeathed by her to the University of Glasgow (Graphic with a link to impression #K2890103).