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Mrs J. Birnie Philip

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 479
Date: 1896/1901
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 102 x 68 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 3
Catalogues: K.-; M.-; T.-; W.-
Impressions taken from this plate  (3)
Mrs J. Birnie Philip dates from some time between 1895 and 1901.
The size and make of the copper plate (which resembles Stéphane Mallarmé [462], Market Women: Turkeys [424], Theatre, Loches [418], Hôtel de la Promenade, Loches [415] and Marchande de Vin, Ajaccio [485]) could indicate any date between 1887 and 1901.
The form of butterfly signature is consistent with a date in the mid-1890s.
The costume, with wide reveres and full sleeves, would have been fashionable in 1895. Frances Philip (1824-1917) wore a dress with huge 'leg o'mutton' sleeves for the wedding of her daughter Ethel Whibley (1861-1920) on 11 September 1895. 1

1: MacDonald 2003, p. 201, and see also pp. 202-203, 207, 208-209.

However, the old lady in this drypoint looks older than on that occasion, and she could well have continued to wear similar costumes for some years. After the long illness and death of Whistler's wife Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896), his mother-in-law might well have looked extremely old and tired. This suggests that a date of late 1896 or 1897 is likely. However, a later date is possible, for Whistler had a close relationship with the Birnie Philips for the rest of his life.