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The Old Swan Brewery, Chelsea

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 105
Date: 1872/1873
Medium: etching
Size: 67 x 99 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 12
Catalogues: K.98; M.97; W.89
Impressions taken from this plate  (12)


Drawn with very clean, sharply etched outlines, and a few small areas of more detailed texture drawn with short strokes.


The butterfly signature is of a very early form, dating from possibly as early as 1872 or 1873. Among the few impressions that can be securely dated to the early 1870s is one inscribed 'The Swan - Chelsea -' and signed with a butterfly that can be dated to 1873 or 1874 (). It is printed in black ink on cream Japan paper.
Most impressions were printed much later, in 1890. Whistler recorded that he had some in stock ('26' is crossed out, and then the note becomes illegible) and then noted impressions 'Since Printed': nine on 13 August 1890, seven on 15 August, and '15. 9.' (this is not dated and it is not clear if this means in stock), and finally, 'Two. of the destroyed Plate Aug 28. 1890.' 15 Thus there could have been an 1890 print run of at least 16 impressions, but by no means all have been located.

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

The extant impressions are printed in dark brown ink on shades of off-white to cream laid paper (, , , ) including one with 'PRO PATRIA' watermark and 'IVDL' countermark (). Another impression is in brown ink on an ivory Asian laid paper (), and one is in a warm black ink on grey laid paper ().
These impressions were trimmed and signed for sale by Whistler, in the 1890s (i.e. , , , ). One bears what may be a note by Whistler, '23' and 'oo', which may be a note of quality or indication of a print run or of a date (). Another has a note that appears to read 'm.o.o' (). Yet another- which remained in Whistler's possession - is similarly trimmed and signed and bears a single 'o' on the verso ().
Frederick Goulding (1842-1909) was involved in the printing, though to what extent is not known. A single impression is signed and inscribed 'F. Goulding Imp. at S. K. M. Etching room.' (). This is an impression in black ink on cream 'antique' (pre-1800) laid paper, where Whistler's impressions are mainly in dark brown. 'S. K. M.' is South Kensington Museum, and it is possible that Goulding was demonstrating printing to students.