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La Rétameuse

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 26
Date: 1858
Medium: etching
Size: 112 x 89 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower right (2)
Inscribed: 'Imp. Delatre. Rue St. Jacques. 171.' at lower left (2)
Set/Publication: 'French Set', 1858
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 42
Catalogues: K.14; M.11; T.3; W.5
Impressions taken from this plate  (42)


La Rétameuse was published as La Rétameuse in Douze eaux-fortes d'après Nature (Twelve Etchings from Nature, the 'French Set') in 1858.


La Rétameuse was first shown in an exhibition of the work of contemporary painters at The Hague in 1863. In 1874 it was in the travelling exhibition of the collection of James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), and selected by Whistler for his first one-man retrospective, in London. 9 It was in a later loan show in Philadelphia in 1879. Private collectors submitted good impressions to exhibitions. Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) lent one to the Union League Club in New York in 1881 () and Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) to the exhibition organised by the Caxton Club, Chicago, in 1900 (). 10

It also figured in print dealers' shows, particularly those of H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1898 and 1903 and F. Keppel & Co. in 1902, all in New York. Two impressions were bought by Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) from the 1898 show (, ). 11

9: Hague 1863; Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 503).

10: New York 1881 (cat. no. 6); Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 5).


Finally, La Rétameuse was shown in the Memorial Exhibitions after Whistler's death. In 1904, Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) lent a trial proof impression to the Grolier Club (), New York, and Howard Mansfield (1849-1938) lent one impression to the Boston Memorial Exhibition. King Edward VII lent another to the London Memorial show in 1905. 12

12: New York 1904a (cat. no. 6); Boston 1904 (cat. no. 2); London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 5).


In marketing the 'French Set' Whistler was helped by his family, including Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910). Thomas de Kay Winans (1820-1878) bought Whistler's etchings including La Rétameuse () in the summer of 1859 through Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910), to whom he wrote on 20 June: 'I enclose two drafts on Liverpool amounting to £63 sterling and as requested by you, for the etchings - they arrived in good order and are considered very fine, doing Jemmy great credit'. 13

13: GUW #07079.

On 1 January 1861 Haden sold 16 prints to what was then the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) for £10.10.0, and in addition presented the museum with a complete 'French Set', as printed by Auguste Delâtre (1822-1907) including La Rétameuse (). 14 Haden also owned impressions of two different states (, ), which were bought by Hermann Wunderlich & Co., New York, sold through Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938), to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1898 and bequeathed to the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC., in 1919.

14: V&A, Register for Prints, p. 33.

George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) owned an early impression of the first state (), probably acquired in Paris, as did Philippe Burty (1830-1890) (). Burty also owned a second state (), and both were bought by the British Museum in 1865 and 1866. Another impression from Burty's collection, also said to be a 'first undescribed state before the artist's and printer's names' was bought by the London print firm, Messrs Hogarth at auction in 1876 for £1.16.0. 15

15: Sotheby's, 27 April 1876 (lot 725).

An impression was owned by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), whose collection helped form the New York Public Library (). Later collectors included William Loring Andrews (1837-1927), who gave his print to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1883 (); and Henry F. Sewall (1816-1896), whose print was bought after his death by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1897 (). One impression was among a selection from the 'French Set' returned to Whistler for his butterfly signature in 1888 or 1889, and later - before 1900 - acquired by Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (), whose wife bequeathed it to the Art Institute of Chicago. In Germany, Hermann Heinrich Meier (1809–1898) bequeathed an impression to his wife, to be given to the Kunsthalle Bremen after her death, which occurred in 1910 ().