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Quiet Canal

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 224
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 229 x 154 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'Second Venice Set', 1886
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 35
Catalogues: K.214; M.211; W.184
Impressions taken from this plate  (35)


Whistler altered the copper plate for this Venetian subject very little over the course of its printing life. The basic composition in etching remained virtually identical, with some early lines reduced and relatively few others added, in both etching and drypoint. Once the final changes were made, the plate was printed without further retouching, despite the fact that some fine lines became very faint, or even invisible, on the latest impressions.


The first state was printed in black ink, one proof being on an off-white wove paper, possibly Asian, which has slightly slipped in the printing () and another on ivory laid paper with an illegible watermark (). A second state was printed in black ink on off-white laid paper ().
In 1886, when Whistler was happy with the etching in the third state, he sold it to Messrs Dowdeswell and Alphonse Wyatt Thibaudeau (ca 1840- d.1892) for publication in the 'Second Venice Set'), and the copper plate was sent for printing by Émile Frédéric Salmon (1840-1913), who was then visiting London. However, not satisfied with the results, Whistler then took over the printing or supervision of printing for later states.
A record of this edition of the 'Second Venice Set' lists ten impressions of Quiet Canal delivered on 28 July, two on 20 August, eleven on 6 October, twelve on 21 October and finally another twelve on 26 October 1887, a total of 47. 9

9: Whistler to W. Dowdeswell, GUW #08717.

The main print-run for the published edition was in the fourth state. It was sometimes printed in black ink on papers including ivory laid (); cream laid (); buff 'antique' (pre-1800) laid () and ivory Asian laid discoloured to brown ().
Many were in dark brown ink on laid papers including ivory paper with 'WW' countermark (); two on the same ivory laid paper, possibly Asian (, ); ivory laid (, ); light-weight cream laid (, ) and cream 'modern' laid paper (). Impressions were trimmed to the platemark and signed on the tab with Whistler's butterfly and 'imp.' to show that he had printed them. Cancelled impressions were in black (, ) and dark brown ink on ivory laid paper ().