building, window, portrait, woman standing.
Whistler's original title is not known. Two later titles are recorded:
'Lady Standing, Full-Length, in Profile Right' (1998, Hopkinson). 4
Lady standing (2003, Hunterian Art Gallery). 5
The Hunterian's title has been considered sufficient to distinguish this mezzotint from other images.
4: Hopkinson 1998[more].
5: Hunterian Website, http://www.huntsearch.gla.ac.uk (accessed 2011).
A woman standing against a dark background, in profile to right. She wears a dark broad-brimmed hat with a light trim or feathers, a slim-fitting dark dress with white collar or scarf. Her right arm is slightly bent, with the hand hidden, possibly in a pocket or under a side-slit in the skirt.
Just visible to right of the figure, partly underneath it and the opposite way up, is the façade of a building. It has a rectangular-paned window with a low semi-circular top, a curtain drawn partly across it. There is a suggestion of an arch above. A figure is visible in the lit interior, which has rafters on the ceiling.
It is impossible to identify the sitter with absolute certainty, since her face is concealed in shadowy darkness.
Hopkinson suggests that this was a portrait of Maud Franklin
(1857- ca 1941), comparable to the oil painting, Arrangement in White and Black
y185, the etching, Maud, Standing
169, and the lithograph, Study
c003, reproduced below. 6
6: Hopkinson 1998[more], p. 400.
Freer Gallery of Art.
In the oil, shown below, she does indeed wear a black hat trimmed with white feathers, though the dress is very different (with gathered skirt, and puffs at the shoulder).
Arrangement in White and Black
y185, oil on canvas,
Freer Gallery of Art.
Another portrait of Maud, Harmony in Black and Red y236, with a dark, close-fitting dress with white upstanding collar, and black hat trimmed in a lighter colour; dates from a little later, between 1880 and 1882. Maud could have posed to Whistler any time up to 1888, with the period between 1876-1886 being the most likely.
A colour-reversed vertical flip of the image, reproduced above, shows the underlying study of a building with an arched window, and a figure seen in silhouette against the interior. It is not related in any way to the figure of a woman that was drawn over it.
The subject may have been a shop, restaurant or public house. It could have been drawn in Chelsea, London, but could equally have been done in Paris or Dieppe. However, it is perhaps more likely that Whistler was experimenting in mezzotint close to his London studio rather than in France. Although Whistler drew and painted many 'nocturnes', very few represent lit interiors.
As a subject it is comparable to Nocturne: Black and Gold - Rag Shop, Chelsea y204, which has been dated about 1878. The low arched top of the window also suggests a comparison with White and Grey: La Cour de l'hôtel, Dieppe y325, which dates from 1885. 7
7: Both paintings are in Harvard Art Museums.