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Long Venice

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 211
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 128 x 311 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 8
Known impressions: 37
Catalogues: K.212; M.209; W.182
Impressions taken from this plate  (37)


Whistler began Long Venice in pure etching. He then used drypoint to redraw the domes and supporting walls of Santa Maria della Salute and to make additions to the clouds on the right side of the image. In the first state of the plate, the domes of the church were too large in relation to the other buildings depicted, so Whistler first reduced their size and then continued to refine their shapes throughout all the following states.


Whistler printed one or two proofs of the first three states (i.e. , ), either in Venice or immediately on his return. These are signed with a butterfly with conspicuous lines on the wings. On later impressions, printed mostly in 1886, the butterflies do not have these bands, and instead acquired a pair of assertive 'eyebrows' between the antennae (i.e. ).
Inks and papers vary considerably, starting with proofs in black ink on off-white Asian laid paper (); dark brown ink with carefully printed graduated plate tone on ivory laid paper (); black ink on ivory laid paper with the watermark of a hunting horn in a shield (); dark brown on ivory laid paper, trimmed but not signed, possibly abstracted from the studio by Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913) () who helped Whistler to print the Venice etchings.
When Whistler sold the 'Second Venice Set' to Messrs Dowdeswell and Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892), they planned to have it printed by Émile Frédéric Salmon (1840-1913). Whistler sold the plate in its sixth state, apparently considering that was in a good and definitive condition, and a proof was printed by Salmon. It is included in an almost complete set of Salmon's proofs that were acquired by Ernest Stephen Lumsden (1883-1968) () and sold by Mrs Lumsden to the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, in 1949.
Whistler then decided to print the whole set himself. There are impressions, mostly in dark brown ink, on cream Asian paper () and cream 'antique' (pre-1800) laid paper with the Arms of Amsterdam watermark (). One, however, was printed in black ink on a dark cream 'modern' laid paper, and signed with a butterfly, but not by the artist ().

Impressions of the last two states are mostly in dark brown ink on a variety of papers, with perhaps a slight preference for Asian papers. Impressions are, for instance, on ivory Asian laid paper (, ), including the impression reproduced below (); ivory laid paper with Strasbourg Lily watermark (); buff Japan () and so on and so forth. Cancelled impressions are on ivory laid paper in black () and in brown ink ().
Etching: K2120503
There are a number of dated records, lists, receipts and invoices recording the progress of printing the 'Second Venice Set'. According to these, Whistler printed a few impressions of Long Venice at intervals through 1886, sending three impressions to Dowdeswell's on 2 April, two on 31 July, none on 20 August (when he sent 29 proofs of other etchings), four on 21 September, eleven on 25 September and seventeen on 2 October 1886. 11 On 2 October Dowdeswell's noted they had received a further sixteen, and another six were received on 5 January 1887. 12

11: GUW #00863, #00870, #00872, #00874, #00875, #00877.

12: GUW #00878, #00886.

Whistler's records of printing the set for Dowdeswell's vary in clarity. One undated note reads: '10 / 1 Res / 28 / 1 in set / 1 in set' / 1 (pd) / 6 del' (presumably meaning onr paid or printed, and six delivered), which made up a total of 48 in all of Long Venice. 13

13: GUW #08718.

Yet another list records two impressions delivered on 2 April, two on 31 July and eleven on 20 September 1886; six on 5 January and twenty-three on 17 January 1887, making a total of 45. 14 The lists roughly correspond to each other, but are by no means exact.

14: GUW #08717.

Another cryptic list written in one of Whistler's sketchbooks includes 'Long Venice - (doubtful) 1' which implies that some sort of quality control was in place. 15

Etching: K2120602

On 17 January 1887 Dowdeswell's at last acknowledged receipt of a final 'Long Venice. Twenty two " & one destroyed', and the saga of printing Long Venice was complete. Impressions taken from the cancelled plate, like the one reproduced above, accompanied the destroyed copper plate to prove the completion of the limited edition. 16

15: Whistler to Dowdeswell, [August 1886/1887], GUW #13352.

16: GUW #13022.