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The Doorway

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 193
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching, drypoint and roulette
Size: 295 x 204 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'First Venice Set', 1880
No. of States: 20
Known impressions: 66
Catalogues: K.188; M.185; W.154
Impressions taken from this plate  (66)


architecture, canal, chair, door, dress, façade, ironwork, palace, people, rio, Renaissance, sculpture, well, window, woman standing.


The main variation in titles occurred in translations when the etching was exhibited in France and Germany, as follows:

'The Doorway' (1880, F.A.S.). 1
'Venezianisches Palastthor' (1881, Berlin). 2
'La grande porte – Venise' (1892, Paris). 3
'The Doorway' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 4
'Doorway (Venice)' (1889, Exposition Universelle). 5
'The Doorway; - Venice' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 6
'Le portail. - (The Doorway)' (1905, Paris). 7

The original title 'The Doorway' is accepted by the majority of later publications including oeuvre and exhibition catalogues.

1: Venice, a Series of Twelve Etchings.

2: Berlin 1881 (cat. no. 708).

3: Paris Soc. Nat. 1892 (cat. no. 1670).

4: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 154).

5: Paris Exp. Univ. 1889 (cat. no. 419)

6: Envelope containing copper plate, Hunterian Art Gallery.

7: Paris Mem. 1905 (cat. no. 356).


Steps lead through a broad doorway framed with low-relief decorative carvings, flanked by arched windows and topped by a semi-circular lunette. The windows are masked by diamond-patterned wrought-iron grilles and the lunette is covered with a rectangular grid of wrought iron. A young woman stands leaning forward over the water, on the right of the doorway, with an older woman behind her. Chairs are seen hanging from the ceiling of the dark interior, and timber stacked to left. At the far side of the room, a rectangular window opens above a wide door. In the courtyard beyond, figures cluster around a well.


The figures in the doorway - a young and an old woman - may have originally been either the family or employees of the carpenter who ran the workshop. However, as Whistler changed the figures, back in London and Paris, they became unspecific.


Etching: c_K188_02
Palazzo Gussoni, photograph by Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909), 1880s. 8

8: Bacher 1909[more], p. 195, 'The Renaissance Door.'

The view shows a small palace in the city of Venice, Italy: the Palazzo Gussoni, just south of the Ponte San Antonio on the Rio de la Fava, on the border of the sestiere of San Marco and Castello. The Renaissance façade, with bands of decorative carving in Istrian stone and Verona marble, has been attributed (and disputed) as the work of Pietro Lombardo. 9

9: Grieve 2000[more], p. 92.

Etching: c_K188_01
Palazzo Gussoni, 2009.
Photograph © Whistler Etchings Project.


This is a variation on Whistler's well known compositional format: a rectangular grid, parallel to the edges of the plate, incorporating figures in a doorway (i.e. The Dyer 192, Cottage Door 252, The Long House (The Dyers, Amsterdam) 453). The contrast between a young and an old woman is found in several of Whistler's etchings.