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Nocturne: Palaces

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 200
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 298 x 202 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left (12)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 12
Known impressions: 54
Catalogues: K.202; M.199; W.168
Impressions taken from this plate  (54)


balcony, bridge, canal, gondola, lantern, nocturne, palace, rio.


Variations in the punctuation of the title include the following:

'Nocturne Palaces ' (1882, Whistler). 1
'Nocturne Palaces' (1883, FAS). 2
'Nocturne - Palaces' (1886?, Whistler). 3
'Nocturne Palaces' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 4
'Nocturne Palaces' (1890/1891, Whistler). 5
'Nocturne: Palaces' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 6

Although Whistler apparently preferred 'Nocturne Palaces', with no punctuation (possibly out of sheer laziness), 'Nocturne: Palaces', is more consistent with other titles, including Nocturne: Furnace 208, Nocturne: Salute 203 and The Dance House: Nocturne 455.

1: Whistler to Wickham Flower, August 1882, GUW #12989.

2: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 12).

3: List of 'Venice 2nd Series', [1877-1903], GUW #13088.

4: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 168).

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

6: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 199).


In the foreground is a stretch of water, where two canals meet. From near left, a four-storey palace recedes diagonally towards the right. Balconies on the first- and second-floor windows cast long shadows over an arched doorway opening onto the water. In the distance, at centre, a small bridge crosses the canal, illuminated by a lantern on the tall building to right. Further away, at the left, the corner of another palace appears. A small boat is moored by the wall of the palace at left, in front of the bridge. The building at right, drawn parallel to the edge of the copper plate, has an arched watergate and windows above. The sky is dark and the buildings are reflected in the water.


Etching: c_K202_01
Sestiere di Castello, Venice, 2001.

PhotographİM.F.MacDonald, Whistler Etchings Project.
The site has not been identified with certainty, though it is certainly in the city of Venice, Italy. It appears to show a bridge seen across a comparatively wide basin, possibly where two canals meet. It is possible that, above the lantern, there is the hint of another bridge, but it could equally well be a building.
Grieve suggested tentatively that this could be the view east from the Fondamenta and Ponte de l'Anzolo towards the Palazzo Soranzo and the Riva, showing the Ponte del Remedio and, very faintly, beyond the lantern, the Bridge of Sighs. However, the view does not correspond exactly to this scenario, and Grieve also considered that it could be the reverse view. Finally, he wondered if for once Whistler had reversed the view when working on the plate, or traced the view from a pencil sketch onto the plate, with the result that in prints the view appeared the right way round. 7 Since there is no other record of Whistler working in reverse on the plate, and the view has not been identified, none of these suggestions can be verified.

7: Grieve 2000[more], pp. 100-101. fig. 114.


Whistler's Venetian Nocturnes include Nocturne: Salute 203, Nocturne Shipping 206, Nocturne: Furnace 208 and .Nocturne 222, all of which rely on surface ink tone for a variety of atmospeheric effects, unlike later Nocturnes such as The Dance House: Nocturne 455, which depend on line, shading and cross-hatching to create reflections, lantern-light and shadows.