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Rag Shop, Milman's Row, Chelsea

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 329
Date: 1887
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 153 x 229 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper right
Inscribed: illegible inscription at lower left
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 4
Known impressions: 12
Catalogues: K.272; M.267
Impressions taken from this plate  (12)


children, clothing, furniture, rags, shop, steps, shop-front, streetscape.


Possible titles are as follows:

'The Rag Shop - Chelsea' (1889, Whistler). 4
'Milman's Row (Large)' (1889, Whistler). 5
'An Old Clothes Shop' (1889, The Scottish Art Review).
'The Rag Shop. Milman's Row' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 6
'Rag-Shop, Milman's Row' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 7

'Rag Shop, Milman's Row, Chelsea' combines the various elements of Whistler's titles, and is the preferred title. However, it is difficult to distinguish the titles of several etchings with similar subjects, including those of rag shops, and particularly those of Milman's Row, such as The Rag Shop, Milman's Row 290.

4: Whistler to C. Knowles, 17 February 1889, GUW #13050.

5: Lists, 18 July 1889, and [1890/1891], GUW #13235, #13236.

6: Written on verso of copper plate, Hunterian Art Gallery.

7: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 267).


The facade of a building is drawn parallel to the edge of the plate. At the left is a large shop-window, with a striped cloth and clothes hung over it. In the centre are steps leading to two adjoining doorways, the one at the right closed and the other open. Clothes hang between the doorways. In the open doorway stands a chest of drawers, with someone's face peering out to left. Three small children sit on the steps. At the right, a window is indicated above a shelf. Below the shelf, near a closed doorway, is a round table with its top upturned. Further to the right a child is standing on the pavement.


Milman's Row is in Chelsea, London. It was an overcrowded lower working class area, and the old clothes-shop, which Whistler etched three times, was symptomatic of the poverty of the inhabitants. Robins points out that this etching 'includes the paned window of the original Georgian building above part of the junk shop on the right but focuses on the rag shop, the moulded architrave above the doorways, its bow-fronted window and, indicated by a few lines, the first of the adjacent seventeenth-century row of cottages at Nos. 55-9 Milman Street.' 8 Thus both in what he shows of the building itself, and in the items for sale, the etching records traces of an earlier, more prosperous life. In The Little Rag Shop, Milman's Row 265 Whistler moved closer to depict part of the same shops, and in The Rag Shop, Milman's Row 290 drew the same shop and included more of the junk shop, but on a narrower plate.

8: Robins 2007[more], pp. 131-136.

There is a faint and largely illegible inscription in reverse at lower left in Rag Shop, Milman's Row, Chelsea, which may read '26 Meck[or t] St[illegible] Lil[illegible] P[illegible] / Colim[illegible]' and may have been a record of the site, but it does not appear to say Milman's Row.


This is one of several old clothes and second-hand shops drawn by Whistler, including etchings (The Little Rag Shop, Milman's Row 265, The Rag Shop, Milman's Row 290, Furniture Shop 278, Rag Shop, St Martin's Lane 328 and Rag Shop 380), lithographs (Drury Lane Rags c025, Chelsea Rags c026) and two oils (Nocturne: Black and Gold - Rag Shop, Chelsea y204 and Old Clothes Shop, Houndsditch y371). It was one of a series of studies of nut-shops, fish-shops, bonnet-shops, boot-shops, tobacco-shops, fruit-shops, melon-shops, picture-shops - every possible variety of shop.