The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 059
The Scarf

The Scarf

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1865
Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Accession Number: none
Medium: oil
Support: wood
Size: unknown
Signature: unknown
Inscription: unknown
Frame: unknown

Date

The Scarf probably dates from 1865. It was exhibited at the 97th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1865 (cat. no. 569) as 'The Scarf'.

It was undergoing restoration or framing by early 1881. On 28 August 1881 Whistler wrote to ask Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890) to retrieve from 'the Studio of the late Signor Pinte ... a small destroyed panel (my work) left there some time since by me. This picture representing a girl in Japanese dress, known in Academy catalogue as the scarf, belongs to one of my clients.' 1 The 'late Signor Pinte' was probably Raffaelle Pinti (1826-1881), painter and restorer, who died in London on 30 July 1881.

Images

The Scarf, Whereabouts unknown
The Scarf, Whereabouts unknown

'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196
'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196

'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196 (detail)
'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196 (detail)

The Solent, X-ray
The Solent, X-ray

Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen, Freer Gallery of Art
Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen, Freer Gallery of Art

Subject

Titles

Only one title is known:

Description

Whistler described it as '... representing a girl in Japanese dress, known in Academy catalogue as the scarf.' 4 Reviews in 1865 confirm that, like Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen y060, it was a Japanese subject. 5

'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196
'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196

'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196 (detail)
'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196 (detail)

Punch included a small sketch of the painting in a cartoon entitled 'Private View of the Royal Academy'. It shows a woman with bouffant hairstyle wearing a long, close-fitting dress that trails onto the ground in front of her. Both her hands are raised as if in astonishment, and she bends forward to right. Behind her is a railing and on it is a wide piece of material decorated with large dark spots. 6

Sitter

Unknown.

Technique

Composition

Study of drapery, whereabouts unknown
Study of drapery, whereabouts unknown

A drawing that has not been located, but is known from a photograph, Study of drapery m0567, may have been a study for this painting.

Technique

The technique is known only from second-hand sources. In 1865 William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) commented that Whistler's exhibit was 'unsurpassed in delicate aberrances and intricate haphazards of colour' but added that, in terms of completeness, it 'might probably have been held over with advantage till next year.' 7

Conservation History

It may have been 'destroyed' by the artist at the time of his bankruptcy in 1879, or deposited around that time with Raffaelle Pinti (1826-1881), painter and restorer. Pinte died in London on 30 July 1881. In August 1881 Whistler wrote to ask Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890) to retrieve from 'the Studio of the late Signor Pinte ... a small destroyed panel (my work) left there some time since by me. This picture representing a girl in Japanese dress, known in Academy catalogue as the scarf, belongs to one of my clients.' 8

Frame

'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196
'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196

'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196 (detail)
'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196 (detail)

The cartoon in Punch, 13 May 1865, does show the painting in a fairly broad frame but it is not clear if this is an accurate representation or invention.

History

Provenance

In 1881 Whistler wrote that a 'picture representing a girl in Japanese dress, known in Academy catalogue as the scarf, belongs to one of my clients.' 9 It is possible the client was Theodore John (Iannis) Coronio (1827-1903) and that this was A Girl by a Shelf y048, described by Aglaia Coronio (1834-1906) as 'a girl by a shelf on which was some china'. Apparently Whistler had taken it back, hoping to improve it, 'but something had gone wrong, and they could not get it again.' 10 No further trace of it has been found.

Exhibitions

'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196
'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196

Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen, Freer Gallery of Art
Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen, Freer Gallery of Art

It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1865 as 'The Scarf'. Reviews of the show were mixed but they make it clear that The Scarf y059, like Caprice in Purple and Gold: The Golden Screen y060, was a Japanese subject. The Examiner on 6 May 1865 queried: 'Why … in the name of all the Bedlamites, such pictures as Mr Whistler's Golden Screen and Scarf, Japanese studies from a Birmingham teaboard, should be hung, and well hung, considering what sort of works must have been excluded from exhibition, we are utterly unable to divine'.

Both were apparently well hung, as Philippe Burty (1830-1890), also commented:

'ses deux Japonaises ont été justement considérées comme des mystifications, et les Académiciens, qui avaient le droit de les repousser, se sont montrés fort spirituels en les livrant au jugement des délicats par des places excellentes. Elles abondent en tons faux et délavés, choses singulières, puisque M. Whistler s'inspirait directement de ces feuilles d'albums japonais si franches et si riches.' 11 Translation: 'these two Japanese subjects are justly considered as mystifications, and the academicians, who had every right to reject them, were very spiritual in delivering them to the judgement of the refined by giving them excellent places. They abound with false and faded tones, singular things, since Mr. Whistler was directly inspired by the leaves of Japanese albums, so fresh and so rich.'

The critic of The Times magisterially grouped Whistler with 'young painters' like Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) and Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893) (neither of whom had anything in the exhibition!), Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (1829-1904), and Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1836-1904) (who also included Japanese artifacts in his Belinda (cat. no. 188). The critic commented:

'Mr Whistler is the man at once of highest genius and most daring eccentricity of this school. He is equally capable of exquisite things or of gross impertinences, and this exhibition contains instances of both; of the former, in the "Little White Girl", of the latter, in his two sketches of Japanese and Chinese fabrics and screens, accompanied by slight caricatures of maidens of the flowery land, mere plays of colour, and imitation of textures, ugly in form and unfinished in execution.' 12

The Illustrated Times, on 27 May 1865 declared that it 'abounds in delicious colour' while adding that it was 'injured by a rough carelessness of handling which almost offends as a discourtesy.' On the other hand, William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) considered both Asian subjects 'unsurpassed in delicate aberrances and intricate haphazards of colour' although he added that, in terms of completeness, The Scarf 'might probably have been held over with advantage till next year'. 13

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Newspapers 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: GUW #02884.

2: 97th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1865 (cat. no. 569).

3: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 59).

4: Whistler to C. A. Howell, 23 August 1881, GUW #02884.

5: 'Exhibition of the Royal Academy. Second Notice', The Times, London, 8 May 1865, p. 8.

6: 'Private View of the Royal Academy', Punch, 13 May 1865, p. 196.

7: Rossetti 1867: [more], p. 276.

8: Whistler to C. A. Howell, 23 August 1881, GUW #02884.

9: Whistler to C. A. Howell, 23 August 1881, GUW #02884.

10: Way 1912 [more], pp. 97-98.

11: Burty 1865 [more], p. 561.

12: 'Exhibition of the Royal Academy. Second Notice', The Times, London, 8 May 1865, p. 8.

13: Rossetti 1867: [more], p. 276.