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Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 93
Date: 1863
Medium: drypoint and roulette
Size: 199 x 132 mm
Signed: 'Whistler.' at lower left (4-final)
Inscribed: '63.' at lower left (4); date removed (5)
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 6
Known impressions: 35
Catalogues: K.92; M.92; T.71; W.83
Impressions taken from this plate  (35)


book, interior, model, portrait, reading, sleep, woman seated.


The artist referred to this drypoint as 'Weary' but there were some alternative suggestions for a title, as follows:

'Weary' (1863, R.A.). 5
'Weary' (1872, Whistler). 6
'Portrait of a Lady' (1874, James Anderson Rose (1819-1890)). 7
'A Lady' (1874, Ralph Thomas, Jr (1840-1876)). 8
'Weary' (1877, Whistler). 9
'Weary' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 10

Whistler's preferred title, and that of most cataloguers, was 'Weary'.

5: London RA 1863 (cat. no. 941).

6: Written on .

7: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 486).

8: Thomas 1874[more] (cat. no. 71).

9: [10 October 1877], GUW #12734.

10: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 83).


Joanna Hiffernan reclines in an armchair, her face in profile to right, with her long wavy hair spread over the rounded back of the chair. She has a dark bodice, sleeves narrow to the elbow and full above, and a light coloured, full skirt. Near the bottom of the plate appears the head of a girl, upside down, from an earlier drypoint or earlier version of this subject.


Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843). She also posed for Jo 087, Jo's Bent Head 088 and Brushing the Hair 094.


This drypoint is one of the most famous of Whistler's prints and the culmination of a period of productivity in etching and drypoint in the 1860s.
Whistler made two drawings that are related to the etching, The Sleeper m0309 and Sleeping woman m0310. In both, Jo is wearing a dark dress and faces the left, as Whistler would have drawn her on the copper plate (but which is reversed in printing). In the drawings, repeated chalk lines curve around the figure, so that she is cradled in darkness, only the face glowing out of the encroaching shadows. Both drawings were elaborately worked, with long lines imitating the sweep of the drypoint needle, but the luminous quality of the dress and rippling hair of the drypoint are absent. In the drawings, Jo is shown asleep whereas in the drypoint, though reclining, relaxed, she is awake, gazing thoughtfully to right, beyond the bounds of the etching. 11

Patricia de Montfort thought the drypoint documented 'moments of quiet domesticity at Lindsey Row' and commented, 'Whistler highlights the detail of her crinkly red hair, and, below it, the puckered sleeve of her dress. It is a relaxed, intimate portrait.' 12

11: The drawings were owned by James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), sold at Christie's, 5 May 1891 Lot 112, bought by Messrs Dowdeswell. They are now in the National Gallery of Art and Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

12: P. de Montfort in MacDonald 2003[more], p. 80.

However, these portraits also record the ambivalent position of Joanna as Whistler's model and mistress, as noted in the catalogue raisonné of Whistler's drawings:
'The drawings and the etching appear to show Jo asleep. The darkness of the room evokes the intimacy of evening. If she is really asleep, then by drawing her, Whistler was taking advantage of the situation to gain several extra hours posing from his model. In the sleep of exhaustion, she was both innocent and vulnerable. She was also, by her beauty, by the glossy textures of her dress and hair, voluptuous and tempting, a Danae waiting to be awakened'. 13
Lochnan wrote: 'This romantic and poetic image is unprecedented in Whistler's etched work' and suggested the influence of drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) of his mistress Fanny Cornforth. 14

The New York Sunday Sun, 22 March 1903, linked the subject to Rossetti's poem Jenny about a prostitute. 15 The relevant lines read:

'Why, Jenny, as I watch you there
For all your wealth of golden hair
Your silk ungirdled and unlaced ...'

Lochnan adds: 'The poem, written in 1858, was circulated in manuscript among Rossetti's friends while undergoing revision between 1859 and 1869. Whistler ... might have taken the poem as his starting point. ' 16

14: Lochnan 1984[more], pp. 149, 151, citing Rossetti's Fanny Cornforth, S. 291, ca 1862, private collection (pl. 182). Other examples include another 1862 pencil study of Fanny Cornforth by Rossetti, S.288 & 162B, Fitzwilliam Museum acc. no. 1434 at See also E. Burne-Jones Study of Fanny Cornforth, reclining, 1861, Christie's, 28 November 2000 (lot 37) at (accessed 2012).

15: See also Anon., 'Art Notes', The Sun, New York, 5 January 1909 (GUL PC19/11).

16: Lochnan, op. cit., pp. 149, 151.