James Abbott McNeill Whistler

An original hand-signed James Abbott McNeill Whistler Etching.


Original etching and drypoint printed in dark umber ink on laid paper.

Hand-signed with the artist’s butterfly monogram and annotated “imp.” on a tab below the platemark lower left (indicating that the impression was printed by Whistler himself), also signed in the plate with the butterfly at the center of the left edge.

A richly printed impression of Kennedy’s fourth state of nine, Glasgow’s eighth state of seventeen, of this extremely rare etching, with warm plate tone throughout. Printed prior to the shadowy figure at the water’s edge lower left being clearly delineated and the appearance of the diagonal scratch above his head, from the edition of only 42.  One of the plates published in 1886 by Messrs. Dowdeswell and Thibaudeau, London, in the series A Set of Twenty-Six Etchings, also referred to as the “Second Venice Set”.

Catalog: Kennedy 197 iv/ix; Glasgow 237 viii/xvii; Mansfield 194; Grolier Club 165; Wedmore 163.

Size: 8 3/16 x 12 inches

San Biagio is at the eastern end of the Riva degli Schiavoni. The artist’s kept their boats pulled up on the sloping shore near the ancient archway, just east of the Casa Jankowitz. Whistler must have worked from a gondola, offshore.

Reminiscent of Whistler’s etched response to the Thames, this etching also captures some of the picturesque sensibility of earlier Venetian images by Canaletto. Turning his back on the grand view of the Doge’s Palace, the churches of Santa Maria Della Salute, and San Giorgio Maggiore across the Bacino San Marco (lagoon), Whistler depicted here a mid-seventeenth-century warehouse made into residences for the poor on what is now the Riva dei Sette Martiri. The broad bank was suited for drying sails, an activity that probably occupies the man on the left by the open archway. A graceful sandolo, similar to the lighters shown in Whistler’s Thames prints and paintings, is pulled partway out of the water. Some of the fenestration depicted by Whistler still survives, but the balcony is gone, replaced by a modern iron one. Today, tourists are far more likely to encounter docked cruise ships than Venetian workboats along the built-up quay.