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

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Mount Ararat


  • 1880: acquired by Thomas Way (1837-1915), London;
  • 1896: returned to Whistler.

When he was in Venice in 1879-1880, Whistler thought that The Loves of the Lobsters [YMSM 209] and Mount Ararat [YMSM 210] were the subject of an auctioneer's order to be sold with his bankrupt effects at Sotheby, 12 February 1880. He wrote to his sister-in-law to find out what was happening:

'I should so much like to understand the whole thing Nellie - do tell us the whole history - Way seems to have curious scruples about the non appearance of the "lobsters &c &c" at the sale, and wishes to put them up at public auction: - Well - I don't mind that ... The 'frilled lobster' by Caldecott' would be good fun - but ... I don't see how all this led to Waddell's coming down to Wimpole Street again in his capacity of "looking round" ... What on earth Way wanted to stir up anything for I cannot imagine! ... I wish I might know when the Lobsters are to be put up, so that I might get something into the World!' 1

According to Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), The Loves of the Lobsters [YMSM 209] and Mount Ararat [YMSM 210] were cut from their stretchers and fetched from Whistler's studio by the auctioneer's clerk. 2 Whistler suspected that two missing caricatures might have been removed and destroyed by F. R. Leyland and Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890). 3 The artist, keen to find out where the paintings were, told his sister-in-law 'the Ararat, &c. &c. Tell Way and Elden that I value them.' 4

Mount Ararat [YMSM 210] was not auctioned, and according to Way's son, Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913), it was bought by his father from Messrs Waddell & Co., the trustees in Whistler's bankruptcy proceedings. 5 It was returned to Whistler by Way at the time of Way's final settlement with Whistler in 1896. There is no record of The Loves of the Lobsters [YMSM 209] or Mount Ararat [YMSM 210] after about 1896, and there is a strong possibility that they were either destroyed by Whistler, or by his executrix Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) after his death.

The Pennells stated that it had been sold to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), which was incorrect. 6




1: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, [20 February/March 1880], GUW #06690. James Waddell was the Receiver of the Bankruptcy Court. F. R. Leyland had taken Rosa Laura Caldecutt (1843?-1890) to the White House.

2: [February 1880], GUW #01049.

3: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, [March 1880], GUW #06689; and to M. R. Elden, [15/30 April 1880], GUW #12816.

4: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, 22 March 1880, GUW #06688.

5: Way 1912 [more], pp. 34-35, 138.

6: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 256-59.

Last updated: 10th November 2019 by Margaret