Home > The Catalogue > Browse > Subjects > Etchings > Etching

The Little Rag Shop, Milman's Row

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 265
Date: 1886
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 71 x 103 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 6
Catalogues: K.257; M.253; W.209
Impressions taken from this plate  (6)


birdcage, child, clothing, rags, shop, shop-front, steps, street.


The titles vary, some being specific as to the site, some, on the scale (it was small) but with variations on the subject (rag or old clothes shop):

'Old Clothes Shop' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 2
'The Rag Shop' or 'Shop Millmans Row' (1887/1888, Whistler). 3
'The Little Rag Shop - Chelsea' (1888, Wunderlich's) 4
'Rag Shop Chelsea small // Little Rag Shop ' (1890/1891, Whistler). 5
'Millmans Row - - The little rag shop' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 6
'The little rag shop' (1898, Wunderlich's). 7
'The Little Rag Shop. Milman's Row' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 8
'Old-Clothes Shop, No. 1' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938); 1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 9

The numbering system introduced by Mansfield relates to the existence of a similar subject, The Rag Shop, Milman's Row 290, but is not actually needed.

Whistler's original title is not known for sure because of the similarity between this etching and The Rag Shop, Milman's Row 290. However, it was clarified in later lists to include the scale ('little') as well as the site (Milman's Row). A composite title, 'The Little Rag Shop, Milman's Row', based on the title as recorded by Beatrice Whistler and by her sister, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), has therefore been accepted.

2: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 209).

3: List, GUW #13233.

4: G. Dieterlen to Whistler, 3 May 1888, GUW #07158.

5: List, [1890/1891], GUW #13236.

6: List, GUW #12715.

7: New York 1898 (cat. no. 209).

8: Envelope containing copper plate, University of Glasgow.

9: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 253).


In the centre is an open doorway, with a woman sitting on the steps leading to the door, facing left and working - possibly knitting. Above her are two bird cages and behind, a dark interior. To her right a similar short flight of steps leads to a closed door. Shaded rectangular windows are indicated above the doors. To left of the doors is a shop window with small panes obscured by various garments hanging from hooks; smaller goods are seen through a couple of the panes, but most are blank. Below the window sill there are pots and plates on a bench. To right of the doors are two bird cages on a shelf, clothes hanging from the shelf and an oval shape, probably a mirror, under it; below this, standing on the pavement, other goods are indicated roughly. The shelf, window sill and bench cast shadows.


Etching: c_K257_01
Chelsea Rags c026, lithograph, 1888,
The Hunterian, University of Glasgow (49032).
Milman's Row, Chelsea, London. Whistler made several etchings there including Rag Shop, Milman's Row, Chelsea 329 and the lithograph reproduced above.
This was an area populated by the urban poor and lower working class; the old clothes-shop epitomised the poverty of the inhabitants. Robins points out that Rag Shop, Milman's Row, Chelsea 329 'included the paned window of the original Georgian building above part of the junk shop on the right but focuses on the rag shop, the moulded architrave above the doorways, its bow-fronted window and, indicated by a few lines, the first of the adjacent seventeenth-century row of cottages at Nos. 55-9 Milman Street.' 10

10: Robins 2007[more], pp. 131-136.

In The Little Rag Shop, Milman's Row Whistler moved closer to depict part of the same shops, but omitting some of the architectural framework, and in The Rag Shop, Milman's Row 290 drew the same shop and included more of the junk shop, but on a narrower plate.

Booth's map of the area shows that the inhabitants's income varied from very poor to adequate, and in 1899, as Robins comments, 'The number of children aged between three and thirteen living in Justice Walk, 114, and Milman Street, 115, is astounding.' 11

11: Ibid.; Charles Booth, ed., Life and Labour of the People of London, 2 vols., London, 1889, 1891; Life and Labour of the People of London with Maps, 9 vols., London, 1892-1897.


Old clothes and rag shops were frequently etched, drawn and painted by Whistler. Examples are the etchings The Rag Shop, Milman's Row 290, Rag Shop, Milman's Row, Chelsea 329, Rag Shop, St Martin's Lane 328, Clothes-Exchange, Houndsditch. No. 1 358 and Clothes-Exchange, Houndsditch. No. 2 359; lithographs, Drury Lane Rags c025 and Chelsea Rags c026; a drawing, Chelsea Rags m1586; and the oil painting, Old Clothes Shop, Houndsditch y371.