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Sleeping Girl

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 127
Date: 1874/1875
Medium: drypoint
Size: 139 x 217 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left (2-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 9
Catalogues: K.125; M.122; W.112
Impressions taken from this plate  (9)


book, couch, girl reclining, portrait, sleep.


Various titles were used by Whistler and later cataloguers, as follows:

Possibly 'The Siesta' (1877, Whistler). 1
'A Child on a Couch' 2
'Sleeping Girl' (1887/1888, Whistler). 3
'Sleeping Girl (A child on Couch - Wedmore)' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 4
'Girl Sleeping' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 5
'A Child on a Couch, No. 2' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 6

There are two similar subjects; Kennedy numbered Girl Lying Down [128] 'No. 1' , followed by this drypoint as 'No. 2'. Possibly he considered 'No. 1' was a study for 'No. 2', which is a more finished portrait, and is signed. However, it is not the same in composition; the figure is seen against a different background and facing right in the unfinished study, and leaning on a pillow, facing left, in this, a more complete composition.

Unfortunately it is not absolutely certain that 'The Siesta' was this drypoint; it is certain that Whistler listed the copper plate under the title 'Sleeping Girl', and this was corroborated in a studio inventory made by his wife. This therefore is the preferred title.

1: Whistler to C. A. Howell, 12 October-5 November [1877], GUW #12735.

2: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 112).

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

4: List, 1890/1892, GUW #12715.

5: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 122).

6: Kennedy 1910 (cat. no. 124).


A girl lies asleep on a bed or couch with her head on a pillow at right. She has a short fringe, and her hair is pulled back into plaits. Her legs are extended to the left, and she wears shoes with neat, short heels. Her left arm hangs down at the side, her hand resting on the spine of a book on the floor. She wears a long-sleeved dress, and the skirt - or a coverlet - is pulled up above her knees.


Unidentified. The same sitter may appear in Girl Lying Down [128]. The copper plate is close in size and date to several etchings of young women including Nude Reclining [126] and The Desk [129].


A sense of intimacy is emphasized by the relaxed, sleeping pose, and by the untidy, crumpled skirt or cover that reveals her knees. The curves of hips and legs suggest she is slightly older than is suggested by the hair-style and slim body.