Home > The Catalogue > Browse > Etching

The Traghetto, No. 2

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 233
Date: 1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 243 x 307 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left (1-3); replaced with a butterfly further up (4-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'First Venice Set', 1880
No. of States: 9
Known impressions: 60
Catalogues: K.191; M.188; W.156
Impressions taken from this plate  (60)


arch, canal, children, courtyard, ferry, gondola, lantern, man seated, palace, , tree, wine, worker.


There are minor variations in the title, as follows:

'The Traghetto' (1880, FAS). 1
'The Traghetto' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 2
'The Traghetto' (1887/1888, Whistler). 3
'The Traghetto. No. 2' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 4
'The Traghetto, No. 2' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 5

The original title is 'The Traghetto' although this inevitably causes confusion with the earlier version of the subject, Traghetto [231]. Thus 'The Traghetto, No. 2' is the preferred title.

1: GUW #12267.

2: Wedmore 1886 A (cat. no. 156).

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

4: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 188).

5: Kennedy 1910 (cat. no. 191).


In the centre is a broad arch, the entrance to a dark passageway underneath a building, leading to a canal. The passage is roofed with beams, and lit, towards the far end, by a lantern. Through the opening can be seen a seated man at the left, and the canopy of a gondola on the right. In the foreground, in a courtyard, are three slender trees with spreading foliage. In the wall to the left of the arch is a window with lozenge shaped panes, and at the right are two windows. At the right four men are seated about a table.


Comparative image
The site is the courtyard of the Ca’ da Mosto, north of the Rialto bridge in the district of Cannaregio, Venice, Italy. 6 This view, drawn accurately on the copper plate, is reversed, as usual, in the print. There is an earlier version of the scene, Traghetto [231].

6: Grieve 2000, pp. 83–84.


The Pennells discussed this etching with Whistler, comparing it with The Miser [17], The Kitchen [16] and The 'Adam and Eve', Old Chelsea [182]:
'we said that the Venetian plates seemed to be executed in an absolutely new and original technique. It so happened that the Adam and Eve, Old Chelsea, and The Traghetto [No. 2] were, as they are now, hanging almost side by side on our walls. In a five minutes' demonstration he proved one to be but the outgrowth of the other, and had he carried the demonstration further back, he could have proved that both, as we can now see, grew out of The Coast Survey plate, and that there was a natural and logical growth all the way through.' 7

7: Pennell 1908, vol. I, pp. 280, 281.

Pennell got really carried away, comparing it with the work of Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn (1617-1681), to Whistler's advantage:
'In The Traghetto in Venice, there is the same scheme as in the early prints of The Miser and The Kitchen, but the Venice plate is more painter-like in quality. Without taking away from the etched line, he has given a fulness of tone which makes the background of The Burgomaster Six seem weak in comparison.' 8

8: ibid, pp. 280, 281.