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The Two Doorways

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 221
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 204 x 296 mm
Signed: butterfly at left (4-final)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'First Venice Set', 1880
No. of States: 13
Known impressions: 54
Catalogues: K.193; M.190; W.158
Impressions taken from this plate  (54)


bridge, building, canal, doorway, furnace, forge, gondola, lantern, people, washing, worker.


There are minor variations in the title, as in the following examples:

'The Two Doorways' (1880, F.A.S.). 1
'Two Doorways' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 2
'The Two Doorways' (1887/1888, Whistler). 3
'Les deux portes – Venise' (1892, Soc. Nat., Paris) 4
'The Two Doorways' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 5

The original title 'The Two Doorways' is preferred.

1: [1 December 1880], GUW 12667.

2: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 158).

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

4: Paris Soc. Nat. 1892.

5: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 190).


A canal crosses the foreground, curving into the distance round a corner at right, with a small arched bridge just visible beyond the corner. There are three-storey buildings beside the canal at right, one with a stone balcony. The façade to left, reading from left to right, shows a shuttered arched window, a pointed arch leading into a workshop, a bricked-up window under a small window with open shutters, a doorway with a decorative wrought iron grille above and windows and a balcony just visible at right, with clothes on a line hanging from a pole beside the balcony. In later states a gondola came and went in front of the open doorway, with figures in the boats and in the doorway, and more detailed depiction of the façades to right: for these later changes, see STATES.


Etching: c_K193_01
This site is close to the Palazzo Gussoni, which is opposite the Ramo de l'Orso, looking south down the Rio de la Fava and towards the Ponte San Antonio, Venice. It was drawn from a gondola moored at the back of the Case Morosini at the junction of the Rio del Fontego dei Tedeschi and the Rio de la Fava. 6 This view, drawn accurately on the copper plate, is reversed, as usual, in the print. The graffiti is recent!

6: Grieve 2000[more], pp. 91, 189.


In later states, the dark, sombre appearance of this etching, the somewhat grim figures at work, and the use of light and dark in the shadowy doorway, are reminiscent of the illustrations of Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré (1832-1883), as seen for instance in Blanchard Jerrold & Doré's London: a Pilgrimage of 1872. 7

Forges, furnaces and smiths are a recurrent subject in Whistler's work, providing dramatic lighting and complex figure compositions. These include several etchings (The Forge 086, Nocturne: Furnace 208, Murano - Glass Furnace 205, The Smithy 239, Wheelwright 240 and Flaming Forge 490); as well as lithographs such as The Tyresmith c036, and others of considerably later date; 8 related drawings, 9 and an oil painting, The Little Forge, Lyme Regis y442.

7: i.e. Museum of London website at

8: The Whitesmiths, Impasse des Carmélites c092, The Forge, Passage du Dragon c102, The Smith, Passage du Dragon c103, The Master Smith c120, The Sunny Smithy c121, The Good Shoe c122, Father and Son c123, The Strong Arm c125, The Blacksmith c127 and The Brothers c128.

9: Study for 'The Little Forge' (K.147) m0574, Sketch of 'The Whitesmiths, Impasse des Carmélites' m1417, Sketches of 'The Forge: Passage du Dragon' and 'The Smith: Passage du Dragon' m1450, r.: The Blacksmith's, Howth; v.: Horse in a stable m1619, r.: The Forge; v.: Smiths, Ajaccio m1679, The Flaming Forge, Ajaccio m1678.