Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

Home > Catalogue > Browse > Coach and horses <<   >>

Coach and horses

Coach and horses dates from between 1840 and 1843.

The inscription provides several clues, the main one being the reference to Springfield, CT, which suggests a date between 1840 (when Whistler was six) and August 1843, when the Whistlers left for Russia.

Coach and horses, Library of Congress
Coach and horses, Library of Congress

The naive drawing and the name 'Palmer' were originally thought to have been created by Whistler's step-cousin, Amos Palmer (1827-1861), who was seven years older than James. 1 However, the writing suggests a younger child.

Amos was the eldest of the five children of Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868) and his first wife, Emma Ann Woodbridge. The others were William Rhodes (b. 1828); Benjamin F. (1834-1834); Emma Woodbridge (1835-1912) and Walter (1838-1839). Dr Palmer's second wife was Whistler's aunt, Catherine Jane Palmer (1812-1877). They had four children: George Erwin (1843-1909); Donald McNeill (b. 1845); and Anna Whistler (b. 1848) and Julia McNeill (1851-1902). Of these, the closest in age, and most likely collaborator in decorating the book, was Emma. She visited the Whistlers, and actually went to the same school, in Pomfret, CT, in 1850. She told Whistler's biographers, the Pennells, that James was 'one of the sweetest, loveliest boys I ever met.' 2


1: It is dated 'c. 1843' in MacDonald 1995 (cat. rais.) [more] (cat. no. 4), with the suggestion that Amos Palmer collaborated with Whistler in adorning the book, and actually owned the book.

2: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, p. 27.

Last updated: 12th December 2018 by Margaret