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The Seamstress

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 253
Date: 1886
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 99 x 66 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 4
Catalogues: K.252; M.248; W.206
Impressions taken from this plate  (4)


Conceived as an etching, The Seamstress also has a few touches of drypoint. It appears to have suffered an accident, resulting in foul biting in the final state, where dark patches obscure the seated woman's face.
This little sketch was drawn with widely-spaced, uneven, bouncy and broken etched lines, and patches of vigorous regular and zigzag shading. It was then touched up delicately with drypoint in an attempt to clarify the shape of the seamstress's arms. The profile of the seamstress's face seem to have been drawn tentatively and then altered equally lightly before the dark foul biting appeared; as a result her features were never very clear or individualised.


Only a few impressions of The Seamstress were printed. Two are printed in dark brown and two in black ink, on laid paper, and trimmed to the platemark, leaving a tab for the butterfly and 'imp.' to show that Whistler printed them (, ).

A printing record kept by Whistler and his assistants records two impressions of 'Seamstress' printed on 16 May 1887, as well as three impressions of Alderney Street 246and seven of 'Chelsea' (it is not clear which of the Chelsea subjects this was, possibly The Rag Shop, Milman's Row 290, T. A. Nash's Greengrocer's Shop 298, J.H. Woods' Fruit Shop, Chelsea 327 or Little Maunder's 273) on the same day. 12

12: [8 February-29 September 1887], GUW #12716.