Rue de Vannes, Paris

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 435
Date: 1888/1889
Medium: etching
Size: 222 x 130 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 3
Catalogues: K.439; M.434
Impressions taken from this plate  (3)


building, dog, façade, street, woman.


Whistler's original title is not known for certain. There are considerable variations in the title and spelling, as follows:

Possibly 'Rue des Armis' [sic?] (1887/1888, Whistler). 1
Possibly 'Rue des Armes' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 2
'Rue de Vannes Paris' (1903, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), on behalf of Whistler). 3
'Rue de Vauvares' (1903/1905?, Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919)). 4
'Rue Vauvilliers' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 5

The title presents a serious problem since the site has been variously identified. 'Rue des Armis' is almost non-existent as a street name, and 'Rue des Armes' although listed in Whistler's studio around 1888, has not been identified. The title Rue de Vannes, Paris listed by Miss Birnie Philip, writing as Whistler's amanuensis in 1902, has been preferred.

1: List, [August 1887/1888], GUW #13233.

2: List, GUW #12715.

3: Whistler to R. Dunthorne, [17 June 1903], GUW #13042.

4: Written on Graphic with a link to impression #K4390102.

5: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 434).


Behind a tall iron railing is a four-storey house-front, with a small window on either side of the doorway and two large windows in each of the three stories above. A sign above the door, only partially legibly, appears to read '...UMEN... FAB...'. Both of the first-storey windows are partly open, with flowers on the small balcony at left. On the second storey, which also has a tiny balcony, the window at left is wide open, and there is washing hanging in the window at right. On the third storey there are flowers in the window boxes, and the window on the left is closed, while the other is open. There are faint suggestions of a woman standing in front of the window to left in the doorway, and of a woman seated at the open window. Outside the entrance are two milk churns. In the foreground, there is one dog at the right and two dogs at the left.


Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), writing on Whistler's behalf, listed one impression as 'Rue de Vannes Paris'. 6 However, Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) wrote 'Rue de Vauvares' on the same impression (Graphic with a link to impression #K4390102). Unfortunately, a street of that name never existed. Neither - as far as is known - was there a 'Rue des Armes' or a 'Rue des Armis', as recorded in the lists kept by Whistler and his wife.

6: Whistler to R. Dunthorne, [17 June 1903], GUW #13042.

Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) and Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) catalogued it as 'Rue Vauvilliers'. 7 It is possible that, thinking that there was no 'Rue de Vannes' in Paris, they settled on what they considered the nearest equivalent, the Rue de Vauvilliers in the 1ère arrondissement. If the etching shows the Rue Vauvilliers, it is most likely at the south end towards the Rue St Honoré, where there would have been sufficient space for the small court with its iron railing.

7: Kennedy 1910 (cat. no. 439).

In fact, before it was demolished in 1934, the Rue de Vannes ran between the Rue Vauvilliers and the Rue de Viarnes, the latter being a curved street along the Bourse de Commerce near Les Halles. However, the Rue de Vannes was a very short street, and extant photographs from the period do not correspond to the view seen in Whistler's etching.
Another possibility is that the street etched by Whistler appears in Eugène Atget's 1907 photograph, Rue de Viarmes côté de la rue Vannes. 8 It is possible that this was the site - and that the other titles recorded by Whistler and his wife ('Rue des Armis' or 'Rue des Armes') were incorrectly rendered versions of the Rue de Viarmes, a street off the rue Vannes.

However, if the street name was recorded incorrectly, then there are other possibilities among Paris streets: Rue de Viennes in the 8th arrondissement, close to the Gare St Lazare and Boulevard Haussmann; Rue de Vanves in Montparnasse, which is now the Rue Raymond Losserand, and the Rue de Varennes, or the Rue de Vaugirard.

8: George Eastman House, 1981: 0951: 0047.0001 (, accessed 2010.05). See also Atget's Coin de la rue Vauvilliers et Berger 15 et 13 (ibid., 1981: 0951: 0030.0001).