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The Little Cloak

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 370
Date: 1887
Medium: etching
Size: 83 x 52 mm
Signed: no
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 3
Catalogues: K.336; M.332
Impressions taken from this plate  (3)


cloak, clothing, dress, fashion, model, portrait, woman standing.


There are several different titles, as follows:

Possibly 'The Cloak' (1887, Whistler). 2
'Miss Pettigrew Cloak ' (1887/1888], Whistler). 3
'The Little Cloak' (1888, Whistler). 4
'The Mantle' (1903, Wunderlich's). 5
'The Mantle' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 6

It is not absolutely certain that Whistler's titles all refer to this etching, since there is a comparable subject of similar date, The Fur Cloak - Mrs Herbert 367. However, 'The Little Cloak' is the most clear title, and definitely refers to this etching.

2: Whistler to T. McLean, 5 October 1887, GUW #13014.

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

4: Whistler to T. McLean, 11 February 1888, GUW #13018.

5: New York 1903b (cat. no. 248)

6: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 332).


A young woman stands turned slightly toward the left, looking directly at the viewer. She is swathed in a large cloak, which is tossed over her shoulder at left and held in place by her left arm, across her body. She has a bushy fringe over her forehead, under the broad brim of her hat with its peaked crown. Her high-heeled shoes are seen under the hem of her skirt. There is a patch of shadow behind her, to left.


Whistler recorded the sitter as 'Miss Pettigrew'. 7 Presumably it shows one of the sisters, Bessie Pettigrew (b. 1869), Lilian Pettigrew (b. 1870) or Rose Amy Pettigrew (b. 1872). They modelled for several etchings at this time, probably including Resting by the Stove 372, 'Venus' (Nettie Pettigrew) 363, and Cameo, No. 1 (Mother and Child) 459. They usually posed nude or dressed-up in gauzy draperies tied up with ribbons.

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


This is one of several very small plates depicting women in the studio, some nude, others in exotic or contemporary dress, including Little Nude Figure 330 and The Japanese Dress 371.

This could possibly have been an example of winter outdoor wear, but the cloak is unusually capacious and the broad-brimmed, high-crowned hat more masculine in style than was usual at the time (see for comparison, The Fur Tippet: Miss Lenoir 365 and The Little Hat 366).
It is possible that this cloak and hat were in Whistler's box of dressing-up clothes, silky drapes, embroidered material and kimonos (see for instance The Japanese Dress 371). A cloak and hat were certainly among accessories in the studio, as verified by Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913), who wrote that 'the figure of a man walking away', wearing a similar broad cloak and hat, in The Beggars 190 was redrawn 'with reference to nature, as I know, having done duty as a model'. 8 It is not known exactly when Way posed; his account suggests that it was on Whistler's return from Venice, but it could have been continued later when the etching was being revised in the 1880s.

8: Way 1912[more], p. 46.

Mansfield commented in his description of The Little Cloak, 'The skirt of her dress reaches only to her ankles.' 9 It is true that her high-heeled shoes are visible under the wide skirt, and, perhaps because of the all-concealing nature of the cloak, appear very dainty by comparison. It was normal for skirts to be raised a little for walking in wet and wintry weather, although hardly necessary in the studio. This emphasizes the fact that the model was posing in the studio dressed-up as if facing inclement weather outside.

9: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 332).