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The Open Book

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 89
Date: 1861
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 152 x 115 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower right
Inscribed: '1861' at lower right
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 17
Catalogues: K.84; M.79
Impressions taken from this plate  (17)


book, model, portrait, reading, woman seated.


Whistler's original title is not known. The only recorded title is 'The Open Book', as for example:

'The Open Book' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 1
'The Open Book' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 2

Although this drypoint was published with the set of cancelled etchings by the Fine Art Society in 1879, no title page or list was apparently made to accompany the publication. Thus Mansfield was the first to publish a title, 'The Open Book', and this has been accepted by later cataloguers.

1: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 79).

2: Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 84).


A young woman with long wavy hair, wearing a dress with puffed three-quarter length sleeves, a tight bodice with a narrow waist, and a full skirt, is seated in a large armchair, resting against the padded back. She faces to the right; her right hand rests on her lap and her left is at her side, hidden by the skirt. A book lies open on her knees.


Probably Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843). Her appearance and the composition is closely related to Weary 093, reproduced below.
Etching: K0920104