The Traghetto, No. 2

James Whistler (1834-1903), The Traghetto, No. 2, etching and drypoint, 1879-80, signed with the butterfly on the tab and inscribed imp. Reference: Kennedy 191, third state (of 6), Glasgow (MacDonald et al) 223, 5th state (of 9). From the First Venice Set, published in 1880 by the Fine Art Society, London. In excellent condition, trimmed by the artist to the platemark except for the signature tab. 9 1/2 x 11 7/8 inches.

Provenance: Kraushaar Galleries, New York

A fine impression, printed in black ink on laid paper, with subtle plate tone.

This is an early or proof impression, probably printed in 1881, as indicated by the shaded 1881 butterfly (and of course printed by Whistler); Whistler’s smaller unshaded butterfly appears in later impressions.

Traghetto No. 2 replaced an earlier version of the composition, Traghetto, done in 1879-80, which Whistler abandoned after making a few proofs; this first attempt was never published and rarely exhibited. (Traghetto, No. 2, which Whistler deemed more successful, was created on another plate.)

Although the basic composition of the Traghetto was complete from inception, Whistler did make a number of changes through the nine states. In this fifth state impression the back of the hat of the man sitting at the left at the table is unfinished; it was finished in the next state. The man’s body is darkened with drypoint lines; these were largely burnished out in the next state. The carafe and glass on the table are clearly visible; these became faint (or removed) in later states, and added again in drypoint in the eighth state.

The scene shows the courtyard of the Ca’da Mosto, north of the Rialto Bridge. The etching, although generally true to the appearance of the scene, shows it in reverse.