Savoy Scaffolding

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 317
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 178 x 82 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 11
Catalogues: K.267; M.263; W.217
Impressions taken from this plate  (11)


building, man, scaffolding, street, theatre, work.


Variations on the title are as follows:

'Scaffolding Mr Doyle Carte' (1887/1888, Whistler). 4
'Scaffolding' (1898, Wunderlich's). 5
'Scaffolding' (1889, Whistler). 6
'Savoy Scaffolding' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 7
'Savoy Scaffolding' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 8

Since this shows the scaffolding on the Savoy Theatre but not, as far as can be seen, the proprietor, Richard D'Oyly Carte (1844-1901), the title, 'Savoy Scaffolding' used by cataloguers of Whistler's etchings, is preferred.

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

5: New York 1898 (cat. no. 203).

6: List, 18 July 1889, GUW #13235.

7: Wedmore 1899 (cat. no. 217).

8: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 263).


A loaded wheelbarrow stands in the foreground at left. Behind it are uprights and cross-poles bound together, in front of a wall of vertical wooden planks, above which rise three stages of scaffolding. Two pulleys are attached to the top stage, which is reached, at the back, by a long ladder. On the lowest section of scaffolding is a man sitting on wooden fencing at left, with three figures standing - not obviously working - to right. In the far distance a house is visible between the scaffolding supports.


The Savoy Hotel off the Strand in London. The proprietor, Richard D'Oyly Carte (1844-1901), planned to build a hotel that could accommodate a clientele such as the audience from the Savoy Theatre, which he also owned. Designed by Thomas Edward Collcutt, the hotel included the latest innovations of its time including electric lighting, two lifts and en-suite bedrooms. The Savoy Hotel opened on 6 August 1889 after 5 years of construction.
D'Oyly Carte was a strong supporter of Whistler, and a close friend, as was his business associate and later wife, Helen Lenoir (1852-1913). The etching is said to have been drawn from an office window, but records of whose office window conflict. One account states that it was drawn 'from Mr D'Oyly Carte's office window, where Mr Whistler remarked he ''must draw it now, for it would never look so well again!''' 9

9: Homes of the Passing Show, London, 1900, p. 18.

However, the Pennells, discussing Whistler's frequent visits to Helen Lenoir regarding arrangements for the 'Ten O'clock' Lecture in 1885, state: 'Whistler delighted in her office, a tiny room lit by one lamp on her desk, with strange effects of light and shadow, but the only record that remains in his work of his many visits is in the two etchings, Savoy Scaffolding and Miss Lenoir'. 10

10: Pennell 1908, vol. 2, p. 37.