Master Menpes may date from the late 1880s. The sketchy style, and the fact that it has not survived so that any analysis is based on a black and white photograph, makes a definite date impossible to establish. It must date from the years when Whistler was associated with the sitter's father, artist Mortimer Luddington Menpes (1860-1938), and the photograph may have been owned by him.
It has been assumed that the portrait of Menpes' son was of a similar date to a portrait of his sister, Note in Flesh Colour and Grey: Portrait of Miss Dorothy Menpes [YMSM 260], and to a watercolour, Master Menpes [M.1017], both dated 1884/1885. 1 Of the several Menpes children, Mortimer James was born in 1879 and Dorothy Whistler in 1883. Dorothy was just a toddler, and Mortimer would have been about five, if these dates are correct.
However, Master Menpes [YMSM 261] appears to show an older child. It could still be Mortimer – though the identification is by no means certain – and the picture could date from later in the 1880s, perhaps between 1886 and 1887, when he would have been seven or eight.
In 1886 Henry E. Dixey (1859-1943) posed in a play called Adonis in what may have been a similar costume, representing the extreme fashion of the 'Incroyables' in Paris during the French Directoire (1795–1799). It is possible that Portrait of Henry E. Dixey [YMSM 356] and Master Menpes [YMSM 261] are related.
Last updated: 16th January 2020 by Margaret