Dipping the Flag

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 308
Date: 1887
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 82 x 178 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 10
Catalogues: K.325; M.319; W.242
Impressions taken from this plate  (10)


bunting, ensign, flags, jubilee, naval review, sailing ship, sea, ship, warship.


It was called 'Dipping the Flag' by Whistler and most later cataloguers, for example:

'Dipping the Flag' (1887, Whistler). 2
'The Pennant' (1890, possibly Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870-1935)). 3
'Dipping the Flag' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 4

The original title is definitely 'Dipping the Flag'. Dipping the flag was a sign of respect and symbol of obedience to Victoria, Queen of Great Britain. Dipping the flag involved lowering the flag to half-mast and back.

2: Whistler to T. McLean, 20 August 1887, GUW #13089.

3: Note on H. Mansfield to Whistler, 15 May 1890, and reply, GUW #03989.

4: Wedmore 1899 (cat. no. 242).


In the left foreground is a pole with a fluttering flag, on the bow of a ship. A few waves are indicated on the sea. Along the horizon is a fleet of ships, with, to right of centre, a large warship.


At sea off Spithead on the south coast of England. The Times gave a full account of the Naval Review in the Solent. 5 Flags also decked the ships in the Review as a sign of general celebration, and this is seen in other Naval Review etchings, Bunting [304] and Her Majesty's Fleet: Evening [310].

5: 'The Jubilee Naval Review', The Times, London, 25 July 1887, p. 7.