Harmony in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Mrs Louise Jopling dates from 1877 or 1878.
In a diary entry that appears to read 22 July 1877, the architect Edward William Godwin (1833-1886) recorded, 'Saw Whistler paint full length of Mrs. Jopling in an hour and a half. An almost awful exhibition of nervous power and concentration.' 1 Jopling's diary, which remained in the family and is in a private collection, records a sitting on 17 February 1878, 'Whistler made me sit, or rather stand to him for a full length life sized sketch portrait, which he dashed off in a couple of hours, before the eyes of the guests who had come to his breakfast.' 2 However, the description of the portrait by Mrs Jopling does not entirely fit with the portrait as it is now. She described it as 'a full length life sized sketch portrait ... a symphony in salmon and black. I had a trailing black silk skirt … and over it a Princesse robe, cleverly evolved by my dressmaker from a salmon pink chudder shawl[,] & a tocque with crimson roses.' 3
The 'Princess robe' as seen in the extant portrait is a pale cream, almost white, close-fitting, looped up and gathered at the back. It is definitely not 'salmon pink'.
Several possibilities exist: that there were two portraits, or that Whistler rubbed down and reworked the one described by Jopling at that time, or later.
1: Diary, Victoria and Albert Museum.
2: de Montfort, Patricia, Louise Jopling: a biographical and cultural study of the modern woman artist in Victorian Britain, Abingdon & New York, 2017, p. 80.
3: Ibid., pp. 80, 106 n. 36; a chudder (Hindi, 'chuddar' or 'chador') was a full length Indian shawl, and a tocque, a close-fitting brimless hat.
Last updated: 21st May 2021 by Margaret