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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)


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


As part of a published set, this was a fairly well-known print. It was first shown in an exhibition of the work of contemporary painters at The Hague in 1863. 5 An impression was shown in Whistler's one-man show in London in 1874, and compared in The Builder to the work of Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn (1617-1681): 'Among the etchings proper the small highly finished "La Vielle aux Loquecs" [sic] is in power of composition and light and shade, like a Rembrandt on a small scale'. 6 Another impression toured with the collection of James Anderson Rose (1819-1890) to Liverpool and elsewhere in the same year. 7

Important impressions were shown in private clubs, for connoisseurs and collectors. A 'Trial proof; rare', probably , was shown in New York in 1881 with an impression of the published state (). 8 Both were lent by Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), who was largely responsible for the comments in the catalogue, distinguishing the state and rarity of individual impressions and arranging them in roughly chronological order.

Impressions were seen by the public in major exhibitions, such as in Philadelphia in 1879, Berlin in 1881; the Glasgow International Exhibition in 1888, lent by Thomas Glen Arthur (1858-1907); 9 and at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. 10

It also appeared in print dealers' shows, at H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1898 () and 1903, and F. Keppel & Co. in 1902, both in New York, and Obach & Co. in London in 1903. Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) bought two impressions from the 1898 show (, ). 11 Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) lent his impression to an exhibition organised by the Caxton Club in Chicago, in 1900 (). 12

After Whistler's death, impressions were shown in the Memorial Exhibitions, including New York and Boston in 1904. 13 King Edward VII lent a 'French Set', including this etching, to the Whistler Memorial Exhibition in London in 1905. 14

5: Hague 1863.

6: 'Mr Whistler's Etchings', The Builder, 5 July 1874 (in GUL PC1/73); London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. no. 8).

7: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 509).

8: New York 1881 (cat. nos. 20, 21).

9: Glasgow 1888 (cat. no. 2552-6)


11: New York 1898 (cat. no. 13).

12: Chicago 1900 (cat. no. 14).

13: New York 1904a (cat. no. 15); Boston 1904.

14: London Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 14).


Whistler was aided by his family in selling the 'French Set.' Thomas de Kay Winans (1820-1878) bought Whistler's etchings including La Vieille aux Loques () 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'. 15 Winan's set was given by his descendants to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1970.

15: GUW #07079.

On 1 January 1861 Francis Seymour Haden, Sr (1818-1910) sold 16 prints (including several Thames etchings) 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 Vieille aux Locques (). 16 The British Museum bought another impression in 1872 ().

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

H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, sold an impression of the second state to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919) in 1890 () and two more, that had been owned by Seymour Haden, in 1898 (, ).
The first time it was sold at auction, from the John W. Wilson (dates unknown) sale, at Sotheby's in 1887, it was described as a 'brilliant impression / M. Thomas in his Catalogue states that he knows of only one impression in the collection of Mr. Avery.' 17 This was bought by Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) for an enormous amount - £38.0.0. Unfortunately it has not been identified.

17: Sotheby's, 23 April 1887, lot 404.

Subsequent prices were high, but nowhere near as high as this. For instance, at the George William Reid sale at Sotheby's in 1890 an impression was bought by S. Russell for £2.0.0. In 1892 at the sale of the collection of the late Joshua Hutchinson Hutchinson (ca 1829 - d.1891) an 'early impression on greenish paper', was sold to the print dealer Edmund F. Deprez (1851-1915) for £5.5.0 while another impression, presumably not so interesting, was bought by another dealer, Robert Dunthorne (b. ca 1851), in 1896 for £2.6.0. 18

18: Sotheby's, 28 February 1890 (lot 475); 3 March 1892 (lot 56); 15 December 1896 (lot 260).

Meanwhile, at Christie's, in the William Drake (1817-1890) sale in 1892 a print 'on India paper' was bought by Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) for £6.5.0. At auction in 1897 one from the collection of Mrs Edward Fisher of Abbotsbury, Newton Abbot, was bought by 'Ellis' for £3.4.0. For comparison, in 1894 a complete 'set of twelve' was bought by Colnaghi's for £6.0.0. 19

19: Christie’s, 8-9 March 1892 (lot 3260); 13-14 July 1897 (lot 298); 31 July 1894 (lot 80).

An impression was sold by the Kunstsalon Ernst Arnold, Dresden on 6 July 1901 to the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin for 148 marks. Other impressions of the final state appear to have come on the market about 1917, which was when the Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired two (, ). The two cancelled impressions were given by H. M. Dunbar, Chicago, to Toledo Museum of Art in 1927 () and by Emily Poole to Cincinnati Art Museum, 1940 ().
European collectors included Charles Sydenham Haden (1822-1898), London (); Adriaan Jacobus Domela Nieuwenhuis (1850-1935), Amsterdam (); James A. McCallum (1862-1948), Glasgow (); Loys-Henri Delteil (1869-1927) (); Mrs T. H. Riches (dates unknown) (); Atherton Curtis (1863-1944) in Paris (); Léopold Gustave Roux () and Ernest Stephen Lumsden (1883-1968) ().
Early American collectors include Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904) (, ); Susan Dwight Bliss (1882-1966) (); George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909) (); Bryan Lathrop (1844-1916) (); Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) (); Harry Brisbane Dick (1855-1916) (, ); Ralph King (1855-1926) (); Clarence Buckingham (1855-1913) (); Margaret Selkirk Watson Parker (1867-1936) (, ); Albert Henry Wiggin (1868-1951) (); Anna Rice Cook () and Pauline Kohlsaat Palmer (1882-1956) ().
Frederick Keppel (1845-1912) undoubtedly handled a number of late impressions; whether he also had them printed, possibly in collaboration with Wunderlich & Co., is not entirely clear. He sold, or may have handled, several impressions of the final state (, , , ); gave one impression to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1894 () and another to the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (), and bequeathed one as part of the 'Frederick Keppel Memorial' to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1912 (). The plate was certainly cancelled before 1927 when a cancelled impression was given to Toledo Museum of Art ().
A large number of impressions were sold through Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the 1960s, when the firm invited the film star Vincent Price to acquire original art works for their Fine Art Section. The Vincent Price Collection first went on sale in October 1962 in Denver, Colorado, and expanded to stores nationwide. It was a great success with the general public. Special catalogues were issued in 1963 and 1964, and in 1966, the Sears Vincent Price Gallery of Fine Art was opened in Chicago. A print collector recalls visiting the Vincent Price Collection in Chicago in 1969:
'I lived ... near the Sears Roebuck Vincent Price Gallery which was a pleasurable walk from my apt. I visited there several times to browse and once when I was visiting, whom should I meet but the man himself. I struck up a conversation and found Mr. Price to be a warm, genial, personable and delightfully engaging gentleman who was completely opposite from the characters he played in horror movies. I told him of my interest in prints and he inquired as to what I was "searching for" and I said "something by Whistler that is looking into a doorway." He said "I think I might have what you want and I'll bring it in for you". Long story... short....he sold me "La Vielle aux Loques" which was exactly the type of Whistler doorway that I wanted and I recall he indicated that he held another in his personal collection of the same or possibly earlier of the three states and in the same exceptional condition as the one he sold me. I bought it for a ridiculously low price maybe $250 and that print remains in my collection as a treasure with a special memory ... I thought you might appreciate the brief story about Mr. Price who sadly is a treasured memory now and MY special Whistler.' 20
In an instructional film for Sears-Roebuck employees, Vincent Price described (in his seductive voice, with undertones of Edgar Allen Poe, and Roger Corman's The Raven) his acquisition of some 2000 works, saying 'There is no excitement in the world like the excitement of owning an original work of art' and art is 'the ultimate in home furnishing!' 21

The Vincent Price Collection was discontinued in 1971. 22

Impressions of Whistler's La Vieille aux Loques from the Vincent Price Collection have been sold through sale-rooms and art-dealers more recently and can be viewed online. Most have the original Vincent Price Collection labels on the backboard. Case Antiques, for instance, sold one on 16 October 2010 as did Waddington's, 14-15 October 2008 when Lot 10 was described as with a 'fleur-de-lis' watermark. 23 Another was sold by Leland Little Auction & Estate Sales, Ltd., Hillsborough NC, in 2009 with Rag Pickers, Quartier Mouffetard, Paris 029, both from the Vincent Price Collection. 24

21: Classic TV Commercials, details/ the_vincent_ price_collection_ of_fine_art (accessed Feb. 2012).

22: http:// (accessed February 2012).

23: Fall Antiques & Fine Art Auction (Lot 165) at item/ 7911832 ; auction/ 16october2008/ catalogue/0/0010/ (accessed Feb. 2012).

24: 13-14 June 2009 (Lot 536) at (accessed Feb. 2012).