The Velvet Dress (Mrs. Leyland)


James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), The Velvet Dress (Mrs. Leyland), etching and drypoint, 1873, signed with the butterfly and inscribed “imp” [also with the butterfly in the plate left]. References: Kennedy 105, Glasgow 120; Kennedy’s fourth state (of 5), Glasgow 5-6 state (of 7). In very good condition, with wide margins, 9 1/8 x 6 1/4, the sheet 11 1/2 x 8 inches.


B. Bernard MacGeorge (with his stamp, Lugt 394)

H.H. Benedict (with his stamp, Lugt 1298)

C.W. Dowdeswell (with their stamp, Lugt 690)

M. Knoedler, New York (with their stock number MK 17115)

Kennedy Galleries, New York (with their stock number a 46675)

A fine delicately printed impression of this rare etching, with burr from the drypoint work highlighting Mrs. Leyland’s face; printed on a tissue-thin Japon.

The indispensable Glasgow catalogue notes interesting background on Francis Leyland (1834-1910), the subject of The Velvet Dress: “It is said that Mrs Leyland wanted to be painted in a black velvet dress…. According to the Pennells, ‘ [Mrs Leyland] was a beautiful woman, with wonderful red hair. Whistler made a dry-point of her, The Velvet Gown, and in black velvet she wanted him to paint her. But he preferred a dress in harmony with the hair.’ For the oil, Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland, she posed in a much more complex dress, designed by Whistler.