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The Letter (Maud, seated)

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 116
Date: 1873
Medium: drypoint
Size: 140 x 101 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 5
Known impressions: 8
Catalogues: K.115; M.114; W.100
Impressions taken from this plate  (8)


model, portrait, reading, woman seated.


Variations on the title are as follows:

Possibly 'The little lady seated' (1875, Whistler). 1
'Little Maud (new head)' (1877, Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890)). 2
'Maude' (1881, Union League Club). 3
'Maud, Seated'' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 4
'Maud' (1886/1887, Whistler). 5
Little Maud The ' (1890/1891, Whistler). 6
'Maude, seated' (1898, Wunderlich's). 7
'Letter - (The) (Maude Seated Wedmore)' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 8
'Maude Seated' (1900, Caxton Club). 9

There some doubt about whether the early title 'Little Maud' refers to this etching or to another of Maud Franklin (1857- ca 1941), or indeed to an etching of Maud's daughter. Beatrice Whistler's title avoids this problem; adding 'The Letter' (referring to the letter held in Maud's lap) distinguishes this portrait from others. Presumably this title was known to Whistler, and may have been suggested by him.

The title 'The Letter (Maud, seated)', based on both Beatrice Whistler's and Wedmore's title, is preferred.

1: Whistler to W. C. Alexander, [March/April 1875?], GUW #07573.

2: Howell to Whistler, [6-15 November 1877], GUW #02178.

3: New York 1881 (cat. no. 128).

4: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 100).

5: Written on Graphic with a link to impression #K1150302.

6: List, [1890/1891], GUW #13236.

7: New York 1898 (cat. no. 94).

8: List, [1890/1892], GUW #12715.

9: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 94).


A young woman sits turned toward the left, her hands in her lap, holding a piece of paper, with her head turned to look directly at the viewer. There is a bright window behind her, to left, and a curtain to right. She is wearing a dress with a short, fitted bodice trimmed with a frill around the low neck, loose sleeves, a full skirt. Her hair is gathered back close to her head, possible bound with a ribbon, and she has a short fringe.


Maud Franklin (1857- ca 1941). This is probably Whistler's first portrait of Maud, possibly drawn when she was also posing in place of Frances Leyland (1834-1910).


The title and subject are comparable to earlier portraits such as Reading by Lamplight [37] and The Slipper [43], and contemporary ones such as The Desk [129] and A Lady at a Window [148].