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Palaces, Brussels

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 338
Date: 1887
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 222 x 142 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 16
Catalogues: K.361; M.355; W.252
Impressions taken from this plate  (16)


architecture, Baroque, cab, children, palace, trestle table, flowers, people, sculpture, square, stall, statue.


The title has few variations, as follows:

'Grande Pl[ace], Brussels' (1887, Whistler). 1
'Palace Brussels' (1887/1888, Whistler). 2
'Palaces Brussels' (1890/1891, Whistler). 3
'The Palace, Brussels' (1898, Wunderlich's). 4
'Palace, Brussels' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 5
'Palaces, Brussels' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 6

Whistler's usual title, plus punctuation, is Palaces, Brussels, and is preferred to the versions with 'Palace' since the view shows three 'palaces'. It is a scene in the Grand'Place but that can not be used as the title since it could lead to confusion with several other etchings done in the square.

1: Label on Graphic with a link to impression #K3610107.

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

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

4: New York 1898 (cat. no. 251).

5: Wedmore 1899 (cat. no. 252).

6: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 355).


A view across the flower market to a group of three tall, narrow buildings ornamented with pilasters, statues and ornamental carvings. The middle building is a tall (six-storey), highly decorated façade, with three narrow windows on each floor. There are small balconies on the first floor, statues between the tall windows of the second floor, oval windows above the windows of the third floor, and much smaller windows on the upper, attic floors. A horse and carriage stands in front of the building at left. In the square are people standing and seated, with pots of flowers set out on the ground and on trestle tables at right.


Comparative image
The Grand' Place, Brussels, 2011.
Photograph© G. Petri, Whistler Etchings Project, 2010.
The Grand'Place in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. The etching shows a group of buildings on the west side of the Grand'Place: in the centre 'Le Cornet' (no. 6) of 1696, designed by the ebeniste Antoine Pastorama, flanked by 'Le Renard' (no. 7) of 1699 and 'La Louve' (or 'de Wolf', no. 5) also of 1699, designed by Pierre Herbosch. The pediment of 'La Louve' was renovated in 1890-1892.


These highly decorated buildings were not strictly speaking 'palaces' but ostentatious buildings owned by wealthy families. Whistler may have considered that the title 'palaces' added value to the subject (he certainly sold it for a comparatively high price); he had already used similar titles in Venice, for The Palaces [223], and Nocturne: Palaces [200].
On the other hand the market brought the working classes of Brussels into active participation in the scene: decorative 'natural' plants were sold against a setting of fading Baroque grandeur.