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

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Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks

Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks may have been started in 1863, but it is signed and dated 1864. 1

1863: It may be the ‘un-finished Chinese' picture that, according to Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), was bought from Whistler by the London art dealer Ernest Gambart (1814-1902) in December 1863, but this is not certain. 2

1864: Whistler wrote to Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) on 3 February 1864:

'J'ai un tableau pour l'Academie ici - je t'en enverrai une esquisse prochainement - C'est rempli de superbes porcelaines tirés de ma collection, et comme arrangement et couleur est bien - Cela represente une marchande de porcelaine, une Chinoise en train de peindre un pot.' 3

Translation: 'I have a picture for the Academy here - I shall send you a sketch very soon - It is filled with superb porcelain taken from my collection, and is good in arrangement and colour - It shows a porcelain merchant, a Chinese woman painting a pot.'

George du Maurier (1834-1896) also recorded in February 1864, 'Jimmie has painted or nearly painted a Chinese woman which Gambard [sic] has bought for 100 £ – I hear it's very fine.' 4 On 10 February 1864 Whistler's mother, Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), described both Whistler's inspiration and work on this painting:

'Are you an admirer of old China? this Artistic abode of my son is ornamented by a very rare collection of Japanese & Chinese, he considers the paintings upon them the finest specimens of Art & his companions (Artists) who resort here for an evening relaxation occasionally, get enthusiastic as the[y] handle & examine the curious subjects pourtrayed [sic], some of the pieces more than two centuries old, he has also a Japanese book of painting, unique in their estimation.

You will not wonder that Jemies inspirations should be (under such influences), of the same cast, he is finishing at his Studio (for when he paints from life, his models generally are hired & he has for the last fortnight had a fair damsel sitting as a Japanese study) a very beautiful picture for which he is to be paid one hundred guineas without the frame that is always separate. I'll try to describe this inspiration to you. A girl seated as if intent upon painting a beautiful jar which she rests on her lap, a quiet & easy attitude, she sits beside a shelf which is covered with Chinese Matting a buff color, upon which several pieces of China & a pretty fan are arranged as if for purchasers, a Scind Rug carpets the floor (Jemie has several in his rooms, & none others), upon it by her side is a large jar & all these are fac-similes of those around me in this room - which is more than half Studio for here he has an Easel & paints generally - tho he dignifies it as our withdrawing room - for here is our bright fire & my post. To finish now my poor attempt at describing the Chinese picture which I hope may come home finished this week - there is a table covd with a crimson cloth, on which there is a cup (Japanese) scarlet in hue, a sofa covd with buff matting, too, but each so distinctly separate, even the shadow of the handle of the fan, no wonder Jemie is not a rapid painter, for his conceptions are so nice, he takes out & puts it over & off until his genius is satisfied.' 5

Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks, framed
Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks, framed

The painting was completed and shown at the 96th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1864 (cat. no. 593) as 'Die Lange Lizen - of the six marks'.


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 47) dates it '1863-4'.

2: Rossetti to J. Leathart, 9 December 1863, GUW #12441.

3: 4 January - 3 February 1864 (this description was written on 3 February), GUW #08036.

4: Du Maurier 1951 [more], p. 227.

5: A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, GUW #06522.

Last updated: 8th June 2021 by Margaret