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The Hangman's House, Tours

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 393
Date: 1888
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 135 x 99 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 3
Known impressions: 6
Catalogues: K.376; M.376
Impressions taken from this plate  (6)


Whistler used drypoint only to sketch in changes on the children's heads; otherwise, the plate was completely etched. There are a number of faint lines, resembling drypoint, among the sculpture just above the doors, but they do not appear to relate to the subject so are likely remnants of earlier work.
The scene was drawn with short, broken, curling and hooked outlines, filled in with patches of vertical and diagonal shading and cross-hatching. Figures, sculpture and architectural details are treated with equal emphasis.


Whistler returned from the Loire late in 1888 and was proving and printing plates into the New Year. He sold two impressions of this etching in January 1889 but appears to have had none available by February when Henry James wanted an impression. 21 As a result Whistler wrote apologetically to James: 'Tristan's House, mon cher ami, is not yet properly printed, so I must beg you in the mean time to accept as a proof of the other's coming, this etching of the "Mairie, Loches." ' 22

21: Whistler to James, [17 February 1889] , GUW #10934.

22: Ibid.

Over the next few months Whistler must have printed a few more impressions, and sold them immediately, but the edition was very small, and only a single impression of the first state (), two of the second state (, ) and three of the third have been located in public collections (, , ).
The first state was printed in black ink on ivory laid paper (), followed by impressions in dark brown ink on ivory laid paper () and black ink on off-white laid () all with very pale overall tone. The third state was also printed both in black () and dark brown ink (). The latter is a beautiful impression on a pale buff 'antique' (pre-1800) laid paper, with very light graduated tone. All were trimmed to the platemark and signed on a tab with Whistler's butterfly signature and 'imp.' to show that he printed them.