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Château Touraine

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 410
Date: 1888
Medium: etching
Size: 135 x 99 mm
Signed: butterfly at lower centre
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 1
Catalogues: K.379; M.379
Impressions taken from this plate  (1)


building, chateau, courtyard, garden, Renaissance architecture, steps, tower, tree, woman standing.


Whistler and later cataloguers went through several versions of the title:

'Chateau St Germain' (1889, Whistler). 1
'Château, Touraine' (1902, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 2
'Chateau St. Germaine, Touraine' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958). 3
'Château, Touraine' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 4

Whistler's title 'Chateau St Germain' is confirmed by the label on the envelope containing the plate. However, since no site has actually been confirmed, Mansfield modified this to the more general title 'Château, Touraine', and this has been generally accepted.

1: List, 18 July 1889, GUW #13235.

2: Kennedy 1902[more] (cat. no. 328).

3: Envelope containing copper plate, University of Glasgow.

4: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 379).


In the foreground at right is a woman wearing a hat with a feather. Behind her is a long flight of steps rising in a curve from from lower right to left and right again, partly overgrown with weeds. To left of the steps is a low, thatched structure casting a deep shadow. Behind these is a courtyard at left, and trees to right. The building in the background is lightly sketched in, and has two storeys, a steep roof with attic windows and tall chimneys, and a round tower topped by a lantern to right.


The same view appears in a pencil sketch on the verso of a letter drafted, as Whistler said:
'from the heart of what the Poets have (justly) agreed to call the Garden of France, I now greet you! / Far away on the Sunny banks of the Cher - under the very walls of Chenonceau - the Kingly Chateau of Francis I - and his beautiful Dianne de Poitiers [sic] - Chenonceau of merrie memories, - where as you all know, once sat the most brilliant Court in Europe! and where at present the placid peaceful sherrif's [sic] Officer firmly in full possession sits - prior to its disposal'. 5
In the sketch, which is the actual view (the etching being reversed in printing) the tower is to right of a taller building or wall and to left of the lower two-storey building, and the steps in front are more clearly defined.

In 1864, Daniel Wilson, a Scotsman who had made a fortune installing gaslights in Paris, bought the Château de Chenonceau for his daughter. She held lavish parties until the money ran out and the château was seized. It was sold to José-Emilio Terry, a Cuban millionaire, in 1891 and he sold it in 1896 to a relation, Francisco Terry. 6

This would fit with Whistler's comment that the Sheriff's Officer was 'in full possession', and with the generally run-down appearance of the building.

However, the main Château de Chenonceau is a spectacular building surrounded by a moat, and reached by a bridge, and it is not clear where in the garden or grounds Whistler could have got such a view. 7 The building drawn and etched by Whistler looks more like a substantial house, estate buildings or stables rather than the main château.

The title 'Chateau St Germain' is not helpful: there is a Château St Germain a few kilometres from Loches, Indre-et-Loire. It was built in 1820, but does not look at all like this etching.

6: See J.- M. Rougé, Au pays merveileux des chateaux de Touraine. Vallees du Cher, de l'Indre er de la Vienne, Grenoble, 1939, p. 61; J.P. Babelon, Le Chateau en France, Paris, Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques et des Sites, 1988, pp. 182, 218.

7: See Banister Fletcher, A History of Architecture, Boston, 1987, p. 924; Peter Murray, Architecture of the Renaissance, New York, 1971, p. 321.

The shape of the top of the tower in Whistler's etching is similar to the tower in the Château de la Lude, which is in the Department of Sarthe. 8 It is a much better known château, north east of Tours. However, there is no record of Whistler visiting that château, and like Chenonceau it is really on a larger scale than is suggested by Whistler's drawing and etching.

This is one of several châteaux etched by Whistler including Château de Bridoré 409 and Château de Verneuil, Touraine 408. All are very small etchings, in direct contrast to the scale of the buildings represented.

8: Georges Monmarche, Les chateaux de la Loire . Orleanais - Blesois - Touraine - Anjou, Paris, 1924, pp. 264-66; Jean-Marie Perouse de Monclos, Chateaux of the Loire valley, Paris, 1997, p. 214.


It is possible that the woman in the foreground is Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896), and she may also be the fashionable woman seen in the centre of the market in Little Market Place, Tours 389.