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The Square House, Amsterdam

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 454
Date: 1889
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 231 x 175 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 7
Known impressions: 16
Catalogues: K.404; M.403; W.261
Impressions taken from this plate  (16)


building, canal, fašade, house, laundry, people, red light district, washing.


Minor variations in title are as follows:

'The Square House' (1890/1891, Whistler). 1
'The Square House, Amsterdam' (1898, Wunderlich's). 2
'Square House' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 3
'Square House, Amsterdam' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 4

'The Square House, Amsterdam' is the preferred title based on Whistler's original title and those accepted by later cataloguers.

1: List, [1890/1891], GUW #13236.

2: New York 1898 (cat. no. 266).

3: Wedmore 1899[more] (cat. no. 261).

4: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 403).


Three adjoining brick houses, backing onto a canal, are reflected in the still water. The small house at left has a door opening onto the canal, two people looking out of an open window on the first floor, and flowers on a balcony before two tall second-floor windows. The central building has figures seated and clothes hanging in a veranda by the water, a row of small shuttered windows on the first floor with a row of even smaller windows above it, and half-open taller windows on the floor above. The house on the right also has women on the veranda, and a shallow planked out-building, with one small window, jutting out on the first floor. Immediately above this is a plastered wall with a small window, and at the top a much larger window with lace curtains.


This is a view of the Oudeszijdskolk, in the city of Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands. It shows the back of the buildings on Sint Olofsteeg, in the city's red-light district. 5

5: Heijbroek 1997[more], pp. 66, 70.

Etching: c_K404_01
The Canal, Amsterdam y384, oil, 1889,
The Hunterian, University of Glasgow (46343).
The view is also depicted in an oil painting, The Canal, Amsterdam y384, reproduced above. Whistler rarely painted and etched the same scene, but he did so at least twice in Amsterdam. He sketched the scene first, in black crayon on the grey panel, and then sketched in the colours roughly in vibrant reds and browns, stressing colour and mass, rather than the intricate web of detail and texture seen in the etching.
Etching: K4080104
The Dance House: Nocturne 455.

Whistler also etched the same view by night in The Dance House: Nocturne 455, which is reproduced above.