James Abbott McNeill Whistler - Evening Editions New York Thursday, April 21, 2011 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London (their stock no. in pencil verso C.13455); Kennedy Galleries, New York (their stock no., partially erased, in pencil verso a 66798); Thérèse Lowndes Noble, New York (Lugt 1953 but not stamped; according to a note on the mat of the previous owner); private collection, USA (acquired 1979-80)

  • Literature

    Edward Kennedy 187; Katharine Lochnan 184

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I only warn you not to be a butterfly sporting about from one temptation to idleness to another.”
    -In a letter from Whistler’s mother to her son, in response to her learning of his intention to become an artist.
    In 1879, Whistler was commissioned by the Fine Art Society in London to make a series of twelve etchings in Venice. Intending to stay for three months, Whistler’s inspiration wandered among the canals and piazzas, leading him to capture his personal vision of Venice over the course of fourteen months in over fifty etchings. Widely considered the most important period of Whistler’s printmaking, Venice, a Series of Twelve Etchings (known as The First Venice Set) was published in 1881. Included among the select twelve is the artist’s largest etching Palaces. Depicted here are the Sagredo and Pesaro palaces at Santa Sofia delicately rendered in Whistler’s unique sensibility of line quality, tone and design. The focus is toward the center of the image, with particular interest in vignettes of doorways, windows and boats, and approaching the edges with atmospheric looseness. While the etchings were drawn directly to the copper plates on site, the works were printed later in London over the course of the next several years, mostly by Whistler himself (as indicated by the ‘imp’ annotation). The copper plate was warmed during the printing, which imparted a silky finish to the surface of the aged 18th century paper he used. The printing of the plate was as essential to the image as the etched drawing, often defining the quality of light and color of the scene. Because of this idiosyncratic and varied approach to printing, the prints were essentially unique variants. Around this time Whistler had begun to adapt his initials to form a butterfly which acted as a signature. This device along with the trimmed margins and the placement of the tab, were integral to the overall composition and design of the work.


The Palaces

Etching with plate tone, on laid paper, trimmed to the platemark by the artist,
S. 9 15/16 x 14 1/4 in. (25.2 x 36.2 cm)
the third (final) state, a fine impression, signed with the butterfly and inscribed 'imp' in pencil on tab at lower right (printed by the artist), annotated by Whistler with three tiny circles in pencil on the reverse, in very good condition, unframed.

$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $32,500

Evening Editions

21 April 2011
New York