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

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The Little White Sofa

The Little White Sofa was probably painted in the late 1890s, possibly in 1898, and was certainly signed about that time.

Originally it was thought that it was painted around 1883 or 1884. 1 However, although Whistler was returning in the 1890s to compositions and subjects that had fascinated him from the 1880s, the technique in this little panel is different, and more like his late work.

The Little White Sofa, Fogg Art Museum
The Little White Sofa, Fogg Art Museum
Note en rouge: L'Eventail, Freer Gallery of Art
Note en rouge: L'Eventail, Freer Gallery of Art

1883/1884: There are similarities in the pose, dress and composition between this and Note en rouge: L'Eventail [YMSM 256]. The technique. however, appears to be different. Note en rouge: L'Eventail [YMSM 256] was painted with more fluid brushstrokes, and appears to be more finished and in better condition than The Little White Sofa [YMSM 258].The Little White Sofa has rough, bolder brushwork, despite its small scale.

1898/1899: The butterfly signature, at lower right, suggests a much later date, in the late 1890s. Although it is quite possible that the signature was a later addition, added when it was put up for sale, this raises questions about the dating that have not been fully resolved.


1: Dated 'about 1883/4' in YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 258).

Last updated: 18th December 2020 by Margaret