'Venus' (Nettie Pettigrew)

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 363
Date: 1887/1890
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 191 x 267 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 7
Catalogues: K.343; M.341
Impressions taken from this plate  (7)


model, nude reclining, portrait, woman, venus.


Variations on the title are as follows:

'"Venus" (Nettie Pettigrew)' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 1
'Nude Figure Reclining' (1902, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 2

'Nude Figure Reclining' is very similar to other titles, and could lead to confusion. It is preferable to adopt the title 'Venus' (Nettie Pettigrew) given to the plate when it came with Whistler's estate to the University of Glasgow. Miss Birnie Philip may have given it this title, or may have recorded a title Whistler had given to it.

1: Envelope containing copper plate, University of Glasgow.

2: Kennedy 1902 (cat. no. 304).


The nude figure of a woman wearing a scarf around her hair, reclining full length on a couch, her head resting on a pillow at the right, her right hand raised to her breast, and her left arm resting on the couch. An embroidered cloth or robe half covers her left arm, and a patterned bolster lies behind her legs at left.


Comparative image
The Arabian [m1273], 1890/1892, pastel,
The Hunterian, GLAHA 46149.
This shows Whistler's model, Bessie Pettigrew (b. 1869) (known as 'Hettie' or 'Nettie' ), with whom he had a slightly confrontational relationship; she was a valued model, who knew her own worth. Here, the curve of her waist and hip is exagerated by shading, and her half-shut eyes look heavy-lidded. Her right hand touches her breast in an explicitly sensual way. The sensuality of the image may have stopped Whistler from exhibiting or selling this etching. A similarly sensual pose, where the nude is surrounded by exotic draperies, occurs in the pastel The Arabian [m1273], reproduced above. Other Pettigrew family studies include Baby Pettigrew [374] and Cameo, No. 1 (Mother and Child) [459].
Studies of Hettie Pettigrew by Théodore Roussel (1847-1926) such as the lithograph Nude Girl Reclining and Study From The Nude, Figure Reclining share a close relationship with Whistler's drawings and etchings of Hettie. 3

3: Hausberg 1991 (cat. no. 176).


It is not actually certain that Whistler ever called this 'Venus'. He had etched another 'Venus' many years earlier, Venus [60], which showed his mistress, Eloise ('Fumette') (fl. 1840-1858). Other 'Venus' subjects include a cartoon for a decorative panel, Venus [m0357]; several paintings, from different stages of his career, Venus [y082], Venus Rising from the Sea [y093] and Venus [y548]; and a much later drawing, Venus and Cupid [m1296].