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

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Harmony in Blue: The Duet


The only suggested title varies in punctuation:

  • ''Harmony in Blue. The Duet' (1914, L.E. Rowe). 1
  • 'Harmony in Blue: The Duet' (1980, YMSM). 2

'Harmony in Blue: The Duet' is the preferred version of the title.


Harmony in Blue: The Duet, Rhode Island School of Design
Harmony in Blue: The Duet, Rhode Island School of Design

Three figures on a stage, with a curtain or flat at right, painted in horizontal format. On the stage at left stands an actor with a cocked hat and pale blue skin-tight costume, and at right, two smaller figures, one probably a woman in white, the other in a loose pale blue costume, holding a white hat or cloth.


Possibly the Gaiety Theatre, London.


Actors and actresses, not identified.

The Rhode Island School of design website comments:

'Here Whistler introduces three characters from the commedia dell’arte – a humorous theatrical presentation with stock characters – who enact a dreamlike performance. Harlequin plays the violin while Pierrot and a companion sing a duet, enveloped in a hazy blue light. The result is a union of theme, color, and setting, a key tenet of the Aesthetic style, which promoted the creation of a harmonious environment.' 3

It is probably a coincidence that the male figure bears some similarities to two later missing portraits, Master Menpes [YMSM 261], and Portrait of Henry E. Dixey [YMSM 356].


1: Rowe 1914 [more].

2: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 196).

3: Website at

Last updated: 12th November 2019 by Margaret