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The Little Mast

Impression: Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Number: 196
Date: 1879/1880
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 269 x 189 mm
Signed: butterfly at upper right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: 'First Venice Set', 1880
No. of States: 8
Known impressions: 50
Catalogues: K.185; M.182; W.151
Impressions taken from this plate  (50)


animal, balcony, café, boat, bridge, children, mast, people, sailing boat, quay, street.


One main title is recorded, as follows:

'The Little Mast' (1883, Fine Art Society). 1
'The Little Mast' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 2
'The Little Mast' (1887/1888, Whistler). 3

Whistler's original title, 'The Little Mast' is generally accepted.

1: London FAS 1883 (cat. no. 46) 'The Little Mast'.

2: Wedmore 1886 A[more] (cat. no. 151).

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


Five children stand in the near foreground in a broad cobbled street opening onto the waterfront. Behind them, at the far side of the street, is a tall Venetian mast with a winged creature on an orb at the top, and with halyards looped to the roof of one of the buildings along the far side of the square at left. Near the children, at right, is the corner of a building with two men seated on the ground. Behind the mast is a balustrade leading to a bridge, busy with people. Beyond this are the sails of small boats and the masts of sailing ships by the quayside that runs into the distance at far right. Three- and four-storey buildings line the street at left, with wrought-iron balconies casting strong shadows. There are people standing on the street and sitting at a table under an awning at far left, and two skinny cats (or dogs, though this is less likely) in the middle of the street to left.


It shows the view west down the broad Via Garibaldi to the Ponte de la Veneta Marina and the quayside, in the Castello area of the City of Venice, Italy. 4 It was near the Public Gardens, and also near Whistler's lodgings during the summer of 1880, at the Casa Jankowitz. This view, drawn accurately on the copper plate, is reversed, as usual, in the print.

4: Mansfield 1909[more] (cat. no. 182); Grieve 2000[more], pp. 127, 189.

The site was etched by a fellow resident, Otto Henry Bacher (1856-1909), in Castello Quarters, Riva and painted by another fellow-American, Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) in Water Carriers, Venice. Castello Quarters, Riva was published in Etchings of Venice, which might be called Bacher's 'Venice Set'. 5

5: National Museum of American Art, Washington DC.; Grieve, op. cit., pp. 125-126, repr.