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Mrs Leyland, Sr.

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 123
Date: 1874/1875
Medium: drypoint
Size: 229 x 153 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Cancelled Plates', 1879
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 19
Catalogues: K.103; M.104; W.227
Impressions taken from this plate  (19)


age, cancelled plate, dress, portrait, woman seated.


Variations on the title are as follows:

'Mrs Leyland Sen' (1877, Whistler). 1
'F. R. Leyland’s Mother' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 2
'Madame Leyland' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 3

'Mrs Leyland, Senoir' is based on Whistler's original title.

1: Whistler to C. A. Howell, 9-11 November 1877, GUW #12738.

2: Wedmore 1899[more] (cat. no. 227).

3: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 104).


A three-quarter length portrait of an elderly lady sitting in a high-backed armchair, facing three-quarters left, but looking at the viewer. She wears a bonnet trimmed with feathers and/or ribbons, a dress with a dark bow or collar at the neck, and possibly a loose jacket or scarf and a patterned shawl over her shoulders. Her arms rest on the arms of the chair, her hands in her lap. There is shading in the background.


Anne Jane Leyland (1811-1877), was the mother of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892). She was about seventy years old at this time, and still had a commanding presence. She died a couple of years later. She had four children, and her husband may have died (or absconded, or been deported to Australia - there are various theories) by 1838. In the Liverpool census for 1841 Anne Leyland was recorded as a 30-year-old milliner, and in the same house lived Johannah Leyland, age 25, also a milliner; Frederick aged 9; John aged 7; Eliza aged 5; Thomas aged 3 and a 10-year-old Irish girl - probably a skivvie called Mary Lynch.
To make ends meet, she took in lodgers and worked in dining-rooms in Liverpool patronised by the staff of Bibby & Co., where her son Frederick was to get his start in life. In 1851 the census described her as a 38-year-old widow, householder, at 27 Seymour Street, and the family consisted of Frederick R. Leyland, by then aged 19, book keeper; John Elphick Leyland, 18, clerk; Thomas Alexander Leyland, 13, apprentice insurance agent, an Irish servant Ann McKewn, and two male lodgers. 4

By 1861 the children had left home and she was sufficiently independent to be described as a 'lady'. When Frederick married Frances Dawson, the newly-weds lived for some time with his mother; later, she moved to Falkner Street, and her son and family to 36 Falkner Street - a respectable middle-class area - until Leyland took on the lease of Speke Hall in 1866. It was probably at Speke that Whistler's portrait of Mrs Leyland Senior was done. 5

4: Liverpool Census, HO107/561/19 , Folio 16, p. 24 ; HO107/2183 Folio11, p.14.

5: Merrill 1998[more], pp. 111, 113, 117-118.


Other portraits of elderly women include La Mère Gérard 024, La Rétameuse 026, La Vieille aux Loques 027, Whistler's Mother 103, The Beggars 190, and Marchande de Vin, Ajaccio 485.