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

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Dorothy Seton - A Daughter of Eve

Dorothy Seton – A Daughter of Eve dates from 1902 or early 1903. 1

There are several slightly conflicting stories about it: originally the Pennells recorded that it was painted in 1902:

'[Whistler] had an Irish model, Miss Dorothy Seton, whose red hair was remarkably beautiful ... One afternoon J.[Joseph Pennell] found him painting the picture of her, with her red hair hanging over her shoulders and an apple in her hand, to which the title Daughter of Eve was eventually given. He was walking up and down the studio in high spirits' and told Pennell "It was done in a couple of hours this very morning".' 2

Some years later, the Pennells recorded that Whistler painted ‘Miss Seton with the apple’ in 1 3/4 hours one afternoon in May 1903. 3 Either date is possible, and indeed, since Whistler often re-worked portraits, both dates may apply to the same painting.

Dorothy Seton was Irish, and so a reference by Whistler to an unfinished picture as 'The Irish Girl', on 1 February 1903 may refer to Dorothy Seton - A Daughter of Eve. On that date 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, regarding a possible sale:

'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.' 4

Balli bought Gold and Orange: The Neighbours [YMSM 423] at this time for 400 guineas: it is a small panel, and this might suggest that the 'Irish Girl' was another small oil, such as Head of a Child [YMSM 539], rather than the portrait of Dorothy Seton.


1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 552).

2: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 2, p. 291.

3: Pennell 1921C [more], pp. 286-87.

4: GUW #09891.

Last updated: 22nd October 2020 by Margaret