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

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Study of a Female Figure


Variations on the title have been suggested:

  • 'Study of Upright Figure' (before 1913, Pennell). 1
  • 'Study of a Female Figure, standing by a latticed window' (1913, Sotheby's) 2
  • 'Portrait de Sara Bernhard' (n.d., Galerie Barbazanges) 3
  • 'Study of a Female Figure' (1980, YMSM). 4

The 1980 title, 'Study of a Female Figure' has been accepted.


Study of a Female Figure, photograph, Frick Collection
Study of a Female Figure, photograph, Frick Collection

A figure study in vertical format, showing a woman dressed in a long white robe, with dark hair. She stands facing the viewer, looking slightly downwards. Her arms may have been clasped around her breast or back. She stands in front of a pale coloured wall, with a window or wall with a chequered pattern, behind her head.

There are photographs of the painting in the Frick Art Reference Library and the Pennell Collection, Library of Congress.


Not identified.

According to an annotated photograph in the Frick Art Reference Library, New York, it was once owned by the Galerie Barbazanges, Hodebert & Cie., Paris, as a portrait of Sara Bernhardt (1844-1923). This is unlikely, mostly because this appears to have been painted fairly early in Bernhardt's career.

Sarah Bernhardt, photograph
Sarah Bernhardt, photograph

Bernhardt may have posed to Whistler briefly in the 1890s: see Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt [YMSM 399].


1: Pennell Collection, Library of Congress.

2: Sotheby's, London, 1 July 1913 (lot 158).

3: Photograph in The Frick Library, 'VZ 4628'.

4: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 81).

Last updated: 19th November 2019 by Margaret