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The Busby

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 368
Date: 1887
Medium: drypoint
Size: 217 x 128 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 1
Catalogues: K.437; M.437
Impressions taken from this plate  (1)


clothing, dress, fashion, fur, hat, portrait, woman.


Variations on the title are as follows:

Possibly 'Miss Lillie' (1887/1888, Whistler). 2
Possibly 'Lillie' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 3
'The Busby' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 4
'Le Bonnet à poil. - (The Bushy)' [sic] (1905, Paris). 5
'The Bearskin' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 6
'The Busby' (1935, Hunterian). 7

It is not certain that 'The Busby' is also 'Miss Lillie' so although 'Miss Lillie' is the earlier title, the later published title, 'The Busby', is preferred. The tall fur hat seen in the drypoint is similar to the 'busby' worn by certain guards regiments. It is rather 'bushy' but it is assumed the Paris 1905 catalogue had merely spelled 'busby' incorrectly! The 'busby' was fashionable in the late 1880s. Although a busby is often a bearskin (as in the title indicated by Mansfield), it is more appropriate to stick with the earliest known title, 'The Busby'.

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

3: List, GUW #12715.

4: Envelope containing copper plate, Hunterian Art Gallery.

5: Paris Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 438).

6: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 437).

7: Glasgow 1935 (cat. no. 3).


A half-length portrait of a young woman seated, her body to right, facing the viewer. She is wearing a tall hat trimmed with fur, and possibly carrying a muff in her lap. Another study of her face is upside down at the bottom of the plate.


If the identification of The Busby with the copper plate listed by Whistler as 'Miss Lillie' is correct, then it might show Lilian Pettigrew (b. 1870). If he was applying the title correctly, 'Miss Lillie' implied that she was not the eldest unmarried girl in a family. The eldest Pettigrew sister Hetty, for instance, would be called 'Miss Pettigrew' while the younger girls were called Miss Rose and Miss Lily Pettigrew.
It also means that the name of the girl or woman was known to him and to his wife between 1887 and about 1890, when the etching was first listed. This does not preclude it being an earlier work.
Whistler is known to have drawn and painted two 'Lillies': Lily Pettigrew, who was included by Whistler in a list of models about 1888 but mostly posed for Whistler about 1894 (e.g. for Portrait Study of Lily Pettigrew y434) and Lillie Pamington (fl. 1880-1898), who posed slightly later, from 1896 (e.g. for Brown and Gold: Lillie 'In our Alley!' y464).
Lily Pettigrew was described by her sister as having 'most beautiful curly hair, violet eyes, a beautiful mouth, classic nose, and beautifully shaped face, long neck, well set, and a most exquisite figure'. 8

The Busby could represent another model, or a family member such as Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) or Ethel Whibley (1861-1920) (see in the photograph below).
Etching: c_K437_02
Ethel Birnie Philip, 1892/1894, photograph,
Whistler Collection, Special Collections,
Glasgow University Library, GUL PH1/50

However, in that case, it is odd that The Busby is not recorded by Whistler or his wife in stocktaking lists, whereas 'Miss Lillie' is. It is also possible that 'Miss Lillie' was an etching plate that was in Whistler's studio in the 1880s/1890s, but has disappeared.

8: R. Pettigrew, memoirs, GUL MacColl P64, quoted in YMSM 1980[more] (cat. no. 434).


Whistler was fascinated by costume, and this is one of many costume subjects. Another etching, of similar date, shows a woman in furs, The Fur Cloak - Mrs Herbert 367. A later drawing by Whistler shows a woman in a similarly tall hat (Family m1347). Other etchings with a 'hat' subject are The Bonnet-Shop 254 and The Little Hat 366.