The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 210
Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1879
Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Accession Number: none
Medium: oil
Support: canvas
Size: unknown
Signature: unknown
Inscription: unknown
Frame: unknown

Date

Mount Ararat dates from 1879. 1

It was described by the Pennells as the second of three satirical pictures of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), showing 'a Noah's ark stranded on a hill, with little figures approaching it, or perched on the roof, all in the obnoxious frills' (meaning the shirt frills beloved of Leyland: see The Gold Scab y208 and The Loves of the Lobsters y209). 2 On 25 May 1879 Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934) noted in his diary that Whistler had painted ' "an arrangement in Rats" - the ark resting on Mount Ararat' (another transcript of this diary reads: ' "An Arrangement in Rats", the ark reaching Mt. Ararat'). 3

On 22 March 1880, Whistler, who was in Venice, tried to find out where it was, writing to his sister-in-law, 'I want to know most certainly what have become of the Lobsters - the Ararat, &c. &c. Tell Way and Elden that I value them.' 4

Images

Mount Ararat, Whereabouts unknown
Mount Ararat, Whereabouts unknown

Subject

Titles

Variations on a title have been suggested:

'Mount Ararat' is the preferred title.

Description

It was described by the Pennells as the second of three satirical pictures of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), showing 'a Noah's ark stranded on a hill, with little figures approaching it, or perched on the roof, all in the obnoxious frills.' 8

Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913) stated that The Loves of the Lobsters y209 and Mount Ararat y210 were smaller than The Gold Scab y208. 9 The Gold Scab measures 186.7 x 139.7 cm (73 1/2 x 55").

Sitter

The subject is Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892).

Technique

Technique

Unknown.

Conservation History

Unknown.

Frame

At the time of Whistler's bankruptcy sale at Messrs Sotheby and Co. on 12 February 1880, Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885) wrote to Whistler:

'The Gold Scab has been taken to Sothebys in its frame complete - but the other jokes were cut off their stretchers[.] The clerk who fetched them having orders to take all canvasses & to leave the frames &c to you - this is perhaps good as regards the greek girls, it may fetch less - to buy in - all frames &c have been sent to the Doctors save a few which Pellegrini borrowed & of which I have an account.' 10

History

Provenance

When he was in Venice in 1879-1880, Whistler thought that The Loves of the Lobsters y209 and Mount Ararat y210 were the subject of an auctioneer's order to be sold with his bankrupt effects at Sotheby, 12 February 1880. He wrote to his sister-in-law to find out what was happening:

'I should so much like to understand the whole thing Nellie - do tell us the whole history - Way seems to have curious scruples about the non appearance of the "lobsters &c &c" at the sale, and wishes to put them up at public auction: - Well - I don't mind that ... The 'frilled lobster' by Caldecott' would be good fun - but ... I don't see how all this led to Waddell's coming down to Wimpole Street again in his capacity of "looking round" ... What on earth Way wanted to stir up anything for I cannot imagine! ... I wish I might know when the Lobsters are to be put up, so that I might get something into the World!' 11

According to Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), The Loves of the Lobsters y209 and Mount Ararat y210 were cut from their stretchers and fetched from Whistler's studio by the auctioneer's clerk. 12 Whistler suspected that two missing caricatures might have been removed and destroyed by F. R. Leyland and Charles Augustus Howell (1840?-1890). 13 The artist, keen to find out where the paintings were, told his sister-in-law 'the Ararat, &c. &c. Tell Way and Elden that I value them.' 14

Mount Ararat y210 was not auctioned, and according to Way's son, Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913), it was bought by his father from Messrs Waddell & Co., the trustees in Whistler's bankruptcy proceedings. 15 It was returned to Whistler by Way at the time of Way's final settlement with Whistler in 1896. There is no record of The Loves of the Lobsters y209 or Mount Ararat y210 after about 1896, and there is a strong possibility that they were either destroyed by Whistler, or by his executrix Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) after his death.

The Pennells stated that it had been sold to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), which was incorrect. 16

Exhibitions

None.

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

Catalogues 1906-Present

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 210).

2: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 256-59.

3: Diary, 25 May 1879, mss copy, GUW #13132 and #03432.

4: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, 22 March 1880, GUW #06688.

5: Diary, 25 May 1879, mss copy, GUW #13132.

6: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, 22 March 1880, GUW #06688.

7: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 210).

8: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 256-59.

9: Way 1912 [more], pp. 34-35.

10: [February 1880], GUW #01049.

11: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, [20 February/March 1880], GUW #06690. James Waddell was the Receiver of the Bankruptcy Court. F. R. Leyland had taken Rosa Laura Caldecutt (1843?-1890) to the White House.

12: [February 1880], GUW #01049.

13: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, [March 1880], GUW #06689; and to M. R. Elden, [15/30 April 1880], GUW #12816.

14: Whistler to H. E. Whistler, 22 March 1880, GUW #06688.

15: Way 1912 [more], pp. 34-35, 138.

16: Pennell 1908 [more], vol. 1, pp. 256-59.