Ponte del Piovan

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 220
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 229 x 154 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 40
Catalogues: K.209; M.206; W.179
Impressions taken from this plate  (40)


It was published by Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau with A Set of Twenty-six Etchings (the 'Second Venice Set') in 1886.

Whistler delivered in all 1093 prints and was paid £2.10.6 for printing each dozen prints. 10

10: Dowdeswell to Whistler, invoice 16 July 1887, GUW #00891.


In the catalogue for the 1883 exhibition at the Fine Art Society, Whistler added an extremely short quotation from the St James Gazette, namely, 'Want of variety in the handling.' This was taken from a review of the exhibition of the 'First Venice Set' in 1880. The original passage read:
'Their charm depends not at all upon the technical qualities so striking in his earlier work, but upon their unity and simplicity of expression. All those theoretical principles of the art, of which we have heard so much from Messrs. Haden, Hamerton, and Lalauze, are abandoned for a method which, in its simplicity and contempt for elaboration, reminds us more of the etchings of the Spaniard Goya than of any other aquafortist. The short scratchy lines, the excessive simplification and want of variety in the handling, and the use made of surface printing, all help to make up this resemblance.' 11

11: 'Mr Whistler's Venice', St James Gazette, 9 December 1880 (GUL PC15/13); London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 39).

This is unusual in suggesting similarities between the work of Whistler and Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828). However, it is very clear that Whistler's etching of Ponte del Piovan, with its fine detail and precise rendering of the site, bears little relationship to Goya's work.
The review both pleased and irritated Whistler, and he used 'short, scratchy lines' as one of the comments on The Doorway [193], and the reference to Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910), Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894) and Adolphe Lalauze (1838-1906) in the catalogue entry on The Dyer [192]. 12

Later print dealers' shows included H. Wunderlich & Co., in 1883, 1898 and 1903 in New York; Obach & Co., London, in 1903, F. Keppel & Co., also New York, in 1902 and 1904. 13

Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent an impression to the 1900 exhibition organised by the Caxton Club, Chicago (Graphic with a link to impression #K2090602). 14 In the following year James Cox-Cox (ca 1849- d.1901) lent one to the Glasgow International Exhibition. 15

After Whistler's death, impressions were shown at the principal Memorial Exhibitions, including two shown at the Grolier Club (one of which possibly lent by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919)), New York; and,Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent an impression to the exhibition in Boston, both in 1904. 16 An impression was also shown at the London Memorial show in 1905. 17

12: London FAS 1883 (cat. nos. 13, 11).


14: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 159).

15: Glasgow 1901 (cat. no. 226).

16: New York 1904a (cat. nos. 181, 181b); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 140).

17: London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 179).


The first sales recorded were in 1882 when Whistler sold impressions on 8 and 28 August to the London print dealer Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832) at £4.4.0 each. 18 On 23 June 1884 he sold one to the Fine Art Society for £5.5.0. 19 However, most were sold through the publishers, Messrs Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau. 20

At auction prices were much lower. One sold at Christie’s in 1888 for £1.10.0; and one from the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) sold in 1892 at Sotheby's for £1.2.0. 21

The whole set fetched a much higher average price: a set owned by Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot sold at Christie’s, 13-14 July 1897 (lot 316) to Colnaghi's for £82.0.0.

18: GUW #12990, #13643.

19: FAS to Whistler, GUW #01175.

20: GUW #00891.

21: 27 November 1888 (lot 178) to 'McGrath'; 3 March 1892 (lot 274) to 'Barr', possibly Robert Barr (1850-1912).

In 1902 two sales are recorded: one sold by Obach & Co., London, to the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin on 10 May 1902 for £8.10.0, and another sold by Whistler to the London dealer Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851) for a very similar price, £8.8.0. 22

22: 24 December 1902, GUW #13040.