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Old Women

Impression: Baltimore Museum of Art
Baltimore Museum of Art
Number: 234
Date: 1880
Medium: drypoint
Size: 128 x 204 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left (2-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 5
Catalogues: K.224; M.221; W.195
Impressions taken from this plate  (5)


age, bead-stringer, children, courtyard, house, knitting, lace, people, streetscape, woman seated, worker.


Variations on the title are as follows:

'Old Women' (1883, Fine Art Society). 1
'Old Women bead stringing' (1883/1887, Whistler). 2
'Old Women' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 3
'Old Women' (1887/1888, Whistler). 4
'Old Women - Venice' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 5

Whistler's title 'Old Women bead stringing' is descriptive, but the original title, 'Old Women' is preferred.

1: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 29).

2: List of 'Venice 2nd Series', [1877-1903], GUW #13088).

3: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 195).

4: List, [1887/1888], GUW #13233.

5: List, [1890/1892], GUW #12715.


A row of houses is seen across an open area. To right of centre are two adjoining open doorways with fanlights over each door. The doors are flanked by open windows, the one at left with pots of flowers on the window sill. At far left is another small closed window. A small boy is standing at the left, and a woman stands facing him, with an empty chair just to left and in front of her, and a child sitting on the ground behind her. An older woman sits with her back to the viewer facing the doorway at left. To right are three more seated women at work either making lace or stringing beads, with a woman standing looking down at one of them, and a girl standing at far right.


Etching: c_K224_01
Campiello del Piovan, 2005.
Photograph©M.F. MacDonald, Whistler Etchings Project.
The sunny western end of the quiet Campiello del Piovan, west of the Calle Crosera, and adjacent to the Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice, Italy. Grieve identified the site, commenting that the lozenge-shaped iron grilles over the doors and the Istrian stone jambs were still there, but the doors have been replaced. He suggested that the women were skilled workers making needlepoint lace rather than bead-stringers. 6

6: Grieve 2000[more], pp. 152-154, figs. 193-194.


This is one of several Venetian subjects showing women's occupations, which include The Beggars 190, Bead Stringers 235, Fruit Stall 225 and Venetian Water Carrier 197, and possibly dyers in The Doorway 193. Images with bead-stringers include the etching The Venetian Mast 219, and pastels, Bead-stringers m0732, Beadstringers m0788 and r.: Venice: Sunset; v.: Bead-stringers m0812.