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

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Sketch for 'The Balcony'


Whistler's original title is not known. Only one title is recorded:

  • 'Sketch for "The Balcony" ' (1960, Arts Council). 1
  • 'Sketch for "The Balcony" ' (1980, YMSM). 2


Sketch for 'The Balcony', The Hunterian
Sketch for 'The Balcony', The Hunterian

On a balcony overlooking the river are four women. At left, a woman in a pink kimono-like robe reclines on the floor, leaning on her elbow at right and holding a fan above her head. To her right is a woman in pale pink robes, standing, leaning back, and holding on to the balcony railing; she is seen from the back, in profile to right, looking over the river. In front and to right of her is a seated woman in mauve and greyish-blue, holding a lute (shamisen), and behind this musician, barely visible at far right, is another seated woman, dark-haired, facing front. Behind the latter is a pillar and, at the upper right corner, slatted blinds are visible. There are flowers in the foreground and a group of rectangles form a cartouche in the lower left corner. The far side of the river is barely indicated.


The view from Whistler's house in Lindsey Row, Chelsea, looking across to Battersea, on the south bank of the river Thames.


The Artist in his Studio (Whistler in his Studio), Art Institute of Chicago
The Artist in his Studio (Whistler in his Studio), Art Institute of Chicago

The models may have included 'la Japonaise', who posed for The Artist's Studio [YMSM 062], and The Artist in his Studio (Whistler in his Studio) [YMSM 063] (reproduced above) in a pale peach-pink kimono, but since her features are not visible, this is not certain.


1: Young, A. McLaren, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, London, and Knoedler Galleries, New York, 1960 (cat. no. 20).

2: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 57).

Last updated: 28th December 2020 by Margaret