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Price's Candle Factory

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 166
Date: 1876/1877
Medium: drypoint
Size: 153 x 229 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower right (6-8); replaced with new butterfly (9-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 13
Known impressions: 19
Catalogues: K.154; M.151; W.124
Impressions taken from this plate  (19)


Whistler drew and added and rubbed out and redrew this drypoint again and again, radically changing the shape of the boats and the extent and effect of shadows and reflections. In a singularly obsessive search for perfection, he created a new state after every other impression. Of course it is also possible that he thought he could sell more if the composition was changed!


There were two distinct print-runs of Price's Candle Factory. There may have been a few proofs before the first print-run in 1877. Some of these impressions appear to have been numbered, and this was recorded in sales for that year: for instance it is listed as 'Price's Candle Factory (Oct 17th) No. 1' , in sales to Hogarth & Sons; and 'Prices Candle Factory Oct 17 th No. 8' in a list of works sold to C. A. Howell. 12 This suggests that Whistler had at least eight impressions for sale in 1877. These were almost certainly of the first state, before the addition of the butterfly.

There are occasionally notes written on impressions of the etchings themselves, but it is hard to interpret them. For instance on one first state impression a partly illegible note by Whistler reads '9' and '7 X-' and this may have been a combination of date and printing record (). The etching went through a surprising number of states, and some of these states exist in only one or two impressions.

12: To Howell, 12 October-5 November [1877], GUW #12735; to Hogarth, 22-27 October [1877], #12737.

However, there is a later record of printing from the copper plate. On 14 August 1879 Whistler printed fifteen impressions of six etchings, including three of Prices Candle Factory, and this was followed up by printing eleven of the latter on the following day. The butterfly signature was added on the copper plate at this time. 13

Early impressions include prints in dark brown ink on cream Asian laid paper marked '1st State' by Whistler (), and on off-white laid paper with 'De Erven De Blauw' watermark (); and in black ink on cream 'antique' (pre-1800) laid (). There were several impressions both in dark brown and black ink on ivory laid Arms of Amsterdam paper, possibly taken from a book (, , , , ). Other later impressions are in black on cream laid Pro Patria paper (); dark ivory Asian 'laid' paper (); ivory laid paper with the watermark of a cross and initials, possibly 'IHP' () and ivory laid paper ().

13: List, written by Maud Franklin (1857- ca 1941) GUW #13019.