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La Vieille aux Loques

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 27
Date: 1858
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 207 x 147 mm
Signed: 'Whistler' at lower right (2-final)
Inscribed: 'Imp. Delatre. Rue St. Jacques. 171.' (3); partly erased (4)
Set/Publication: 'French Set', 1858
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 113
Catalogues: K.21; M.21; T.9; W.14
Impressions taken from this plate  (113)


age, door, kitchen, interior, rag-gatherer, woman seated, worker.


Whistler and most subsequent catalogues call this 'La Vieille aux Loques', but there are versions in other languages, as follows:

'La Vieille aux Loques' (1858, Whistler). 1
'La Vieille aux Loques' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 2
'Die Lumpenhändlerin' (1881, Berlin). 3
'The Old Rag Woman' (1893, Chicago). 4

'La Vieille aux Loques' is Whistler's original and definitive title.

1: Douze eaux-fortes d'après Nature.

2: Thomas 1874[more] (cat. no. 9).

3: Berlin 1881 (cat. no. 704)

4: Chicago 1893 (cat. no. 2213).


An old woman sits facing right, holding a piece of cloth in her lap, framed in an open doorway. She wears a heavy shawl over her shoulders, a long apron over her skirt, and a white bonnet with ruched trim. On the floor behind and in front of her are open sacks. She is working by the light from the door. The small, cramped room behind her is a kitchen, with pans, bowls and a coffee pot on shelves to left, and bottles, boxes and other containers on shelves at the back. More sacks are piled up at the back on the right. At lower right, on the pavement outside the door, stand two small cylindrical pots, such as might contain milk or water for a cat or dog.


La Vieille aux Loques could be translated as 'The old woman with rags', 'The old rag-seller' or 'The old rag-picker'. It is likely that this was etched in Paris.


A similar subject was etched in Rag Pickers, Quartier Mouffetard, Paris 029, where in the fifth state a barely furnished room is the setting for two figures, and rags hang around the room.
Etching: K0230503
However, in that etching, Whistler's original idea was just to etch the room, whereas in La Vieille aux Loques the emphasis is on the old lady, who actually may be sleeping rather than working. This is undoubtedly a picture of an old woman, perhaps worn out with work and age, in a very poverty stricken environment - but it also shows her as a respectable worker, with well-maintained kitchen equipment stored neatly on the shelves. Two other portraits, La Mère Gérard 024 and La Rétameuse 026, also focus on old, dignified, poor, working women.