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The Beggars

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 190
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 307 x 212 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left (1-3); replaced with new butterfly (4); redrawn (5-6); removed (8)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'First Venice Set', 1880
No. of States: 17
Known impressions: 57
Catalogues: K.194; M.191; W.159
Impressions taken from this plate  (57)


Seventeen states are known before cancellation.

State 1

Etching: K1940204
Signed with a butterfly at upper left.
The composition includes a woman and child at the entrance of the passageway, a man in a wide-brimmed hat in silhouette behind them, two water carriers at the far end of the passage, and one walking figure in the far distance.
Both Mansfield and Kennedy identified this as the second state of The Beggars, but it is actually Whistler's first idea for the plate. He altered the figures radically in the third state. 14

14: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 191 II); Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 194 II).

State 2

Etching: K1940205
Diagonal shading from left to right (\\\) is added to left of the woman in the foreground, between her and the man in the passage; the left arm of this man is more clearly defined; the light shading at the far end of the passage, on the wall, at upper left, is both rubbed down and extended; small white spaces in the shading above the far end of the passage are filled in.

State 3

Etching: K1940102
The composition is substantially changed; one man - with a cap, beard and cloak - is clearly delineated; two areas are scraped out, immediately to left of the man and behind him in the passageway, where earlier figures are removed; the water carriers and walking figure are removed; the windows and door in the distance are redrawn; considerable fine shading is added to the front beam and ceiling of the passage; shading along the bottom of the wall and pavement is removed at left.
Mansfield and Kennedy mistook this state, which is known in only one proof, for the earliest version of the plate. 15 In fact, Whistler removed the beggar woman and child included in his first state, only to replace them in the fourth state of the plate.

15: Ibid, cat. no. 194 I.

State 4

Etching: K1940302
Signed with a remnant of a butterfly at upper left.
The upper portion of the composition is removed and redrawn, including the beams and rafters at the entrance to the passageway and the lamp, which is moved to the right and no longer has a bracket or pipe running to it; the old man is replaced by a woman and child; a man in a wide-brimmed hat appears behind them in silhouette, two water-carriers are redrawn further at the far end of the passageway, at left, and a walking figure is added in the distance, at right.

State 5

Etching: K1940406
Signed with a butterfly at upper left.
The butterfly signature now has shading behind the wings; left to right diagonal lines (\\\) are added to the shadow behind the child's shoulder.

State 6

Etching: K1940402
The coat-tail of the figure in a wide-brimmed hat is extended on the left.

State 7

Etching: K1940z09
Patches of shading are added to the wings of the butterfly signature.

State 8

Etching: K1940404
There is no signature or inscription.
The butterfly signature has been mostly removed or worn away, leaving a series of unintelligible dots in its place at upper left; shading on the left side of the coat and the left leg of the man in a wide-brimmed hat is lighter than on the right.

State 9

Etching: K1940403
There is a row of short left to right drypoint diagonals (\\\) between the right hand of the man with the wide-brimmed hat and the pavement.

State 10

Etching: K1940501
The silhouette of the man in a hat is altered; the hat now has a more compact shape, with a rounded crown; the man's left leg is unfinished; his right arm, formerly densely shaded, is surrounded by a light, scraped-out area.
This impression (described and reproduced by Kennedy for his 5th state) has not been located. 16 He illustrated it with only a detail, which is illustrated here.

16: Kennedy 1910[more] (cat. no. 194 V).

State 11

Etching: K1940703
Some lines are removed below the left hand of the man in a hat, further defining the space between his arm and coat; the legs of the left water carrier at the back of the passageway are removed; fine vertical lines are added just above the right side of the passage entrance; fine left to right diagonal shading is added near the top of the wall at the passageway entrance.

State 12

Etching: K1940702
The small area, below the second exposed beam at the passageway entrance (500 mm from the right edge), which was formerly white, is now partly shaded by right to left (///) diagonal lines.

State 13

Etching: K1940803
The legs of the left water carrier at the back of the passageway are redrawn in drypoint; the shoulders and back of the man in the hat are more clearly indicated, but his legs remain undefined; shading is added between the man and the standing beggar-woman at right, most notably the lengthened right to left diagonals to the left of her skirt.

State 14

Etching: K1940802
New work in drypoint further defines the right side and bottom edge of the coat of the man in the hat, as well as his left leg.

State 15

Etching: K1940603
The legs of the left water-carrier at the back of the passageway are almost completely removed; the shape of the back and legs of the man in a hat are altered, and there is more white space to his right; a series of left to right drypoint lines run between the man's legs and the beggar-woman to right.

State 16

Etching: K1940804
The legs of the left water-carrier are replaced and her dress now appears to have a dark ruffle at the hem; heavy vertical lines are added to the shadow to left of and below the man in the hat; there is considerable fine foul biting on the centre of the image, including a dark curving area across the man's head; there are patches of 'open bite' (lines broken down into dark patches of tone through application of acid to the plate) over the back entrance to the passageway, on the wall between the man and the beggar-woman and child, and at the edges of the passageway pavement.

State 17

Etching: K1940904
Considerable new shading is added to the beams and rafters at the entrance of the passageway, to the right wall, to the edges of the pavement and to the lantern; the fingers are removed from the hand of the beggar-woman; the silhouette of the man in the hat has changed again, and he is now slightly shorter, has a hat with a narrower brim and appears to wear a cloak; the wall around the man is now considerably lighter; at the back of the passageway, the left water-carrier appears to have a wider stance; the bodice of the water-carrier's dress is darkened, and the ruffle at the hem of her skirt no longer extends all the way to the right side; the walking man in the distance is changed and no longer shown in silhouette.

State 17 (cancelled)

Cancelled with three parallel diagonal lines. No impression from the cancelled plate is known. It is known only from the cancelled plate.