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Mme Pelletier, Blanchisserie, Paris

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 481
Date: 1897/1898
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 182 x 151 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 1
Catalogues: K.438; M.438
Impressions taken from this plate  (1)


birdcage, child, clothing, interiorlaundry, shop-front, woman, worker.


Possible titles are as follows:

'BLANCHISSERIE / MME PELLETIER' (1896/1897, Whistler). 2
'Blanchisseuse "Pelletier"' (1900/1903, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 3
'Blanchisserie. Mme Pelletier, Paris' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 4
'Blanchisserie' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 5

'Blanchisserie' is French for laundry. Mme Pelletier was the proprietress ('Blanchisseuse') of the laundry. The title 'Mme Pelletier, Blanchisserie, Paris' is based on Whistler's original title.

2: Shop sign in the etching.

3: Note on label pasted on envelope, Hunterian Art Gallery.

4: Note on envelope containing copper plate, Hunterian Art Gallery.

5: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 433).


A broad open doorway leads into a laundry. The sign above the shop reads 'BLANCHISSERIE' and below, in smaller letters, 'MME PELLETIER'. To right of the door is a tall narrow window divided into three, and at upper right a curious shape, possibly the number '12' or a bracket or hook for the door. Within the open doorway are three women and a child, standing about a table. Above them hangs a large bird-cage and further back, a lamp. There are other figures and objects barely distinguishable in the dark interior.


Mme Pelletier was the proprietress ('Blanchisseuse') of the laundry. The women in the scene have not been identified. Whistler drew a similar subject in a lithograph, The Laundress: 'La Blanchisseuse de la Place Dauphine' c093, reproduced below.
Etching: c_K438_01
The Laundress: 'La Blanchisseuse de la Place Dauphine' c093, lithograph, 1894,
The Hunterian (49586).
In 1899 Whistler praised the 'blanchisseuses' of Paris :
'I just wish M'ame you could see my linen as I appear now at the table! - Madame Lefeve [sic] has given the washing to one of these wonderful Blanchiseuses here - and my shirts are gotten up like the Prince Poniatowski's !!! - and look like lawn! - "Tout à fait comme celles de Monsieur le Prince!" says Madame Lefèvre. with affection! - and certainly such laundry work M'ame, is unknown in the Island! -' 6


Madame Pelletier, blanchisseuse, was at 4 rue Antoine-Vramant in the city of Paris, capital of France, in 1898 and 1899. 7 The street was renamed Rue Michel-Peter in 1899. It is in the 13e arrondissement and runs between the Boulevard Saint-Marcel and the rue de la Reine-Blanche.

7: Almanach-Bottin du commerce de Paris ..., Paris, 1898 and 1899.


It is very strange that such an elaborate, detailed and carefully finished etching should exist in only one impression. However, there are no impressions at all from another detailed etching from a copper plate made (like the plate for this etching) by C. Servant in Paris, namely The Band, Luxembourg Gardens 466.
It is possible that Whistler destroyed these etchings - or wished for them to be destroyed - after his wife's death. The inclusion of the bird-cage in Mme Pelletier, Blanchisserie, Paris may have reminded Whistler of his wife, for she loved to paint birds and she owned song-birds.
Alternatively, late Parisian plates could have been damaged or lost when the studio in Paris was sold and he moved back to London.