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

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Head of a Child

Head of a Child dates from the autumn of 1900. 1

It was painted in Dublin (or Howth) in Ireland, when Whistler stayed in a house there in the autumn of 1900. Whistler’s ward and executrix, Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), listed 'Head of child (Dublin)' among small oil panels in Whistler’s studio at 8 Fitzroy Street, London, on 16 February 1901. 2

On 1 February 1903 Whistler wrote to Hannah, Mrs E. K. Johnson (1851-1935) of 12 Ladbroke Grove, Holland Park Avenue, London, that John Balli (1849-1914), of 50 Holland Park, could have 'The Irish Girl' (which may have been Dorothy Seton - A Daughter of Eve [YMSM 552] or Head of a Child [YMSM 539]) when it was completed:

'The Irish Girl & The Neighbours are the two that would be at his disposal if he likes -

When "The Irish Girl" is finished I will let you know & you can bring Mr Balli to the Studio again that he see it -

Of the price, which of course I understood you to ask, I can never say anything until the picture is finished.' 3

Balli bought a small panel, Gold and Orange: The Neighbours [YMSM 423], at this time for 400gns: since Head of a Child [YMSM 539] was also a small panel, it could be that Balli was thinking of a work on this scale, rather than the much larger portrait of Dorothy Seton. However, nothing further is known about it.


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 539).

2: GUL Whistler BP II Ledger c, pp. 5-6.

3: GUW #09891.

Last updated: 1st November 2019 by Margaret