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The Miser

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
(50166)
Number: 17
Date: 1858/1859
Medium: drypoint
Size: 120 x 161 mm
Signed: 'Whistler -' at lower left (7)
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 7
Known impressions: 12
Catalogues: K.69; M.69; T.62; W.65
Impressions taken from this plate  (12)

KEYWORD

farm, figure, food, genre, interior, man seated, money.

TITLE

There have been some differences of opinion on the title, as to whether it represented a man or woman, and whether a miser, or not:


'An Interior, Sketch in Alsace' (1861, V&A). 3
'Old Miser' (1863, Whistler). 4
'The Miser' (1870s, Whistler). 5
'The Miser' (1874, Whistler). 6
'A Room – An Old Woman sitting at a Window' (1874, James Anderson Rose (1819-1890)). 7
'The Miser. Old woman at window' (1881, Union League Club). 8
'The Miser' (1886, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 9


The literary, subjective title 'Old Miser', suggested by the dark figure of a man hunched over a table by a small window, is unusual in Whistler's oeuvre, but it was originally suggested by Whistler himself. The modified 1874 form of the title, 'The Miser', was accepted by all later cataloguers.

3: 1 January 1861, V&A Register of Prints, p. 32.

4: Whistler to W. H. Carpenter, 3 August 1863, GUW #11109.

5: Inscribed on .

6: London Pall Mall 1874 (cat. no. 524).

7: Liverpool 1874 (cat. no. 524).

8: New York 1881 (cat. no 92).

9: Wedmore 1886 A [more] (cat. no. 65).

DESCRIPTION

At the back of a room, a man in a greatcoat is sitting at a table, facing a deep window embrasure, reading; he casts a long shadow across the room to right. There is a long, narrow, wooden table and bench on the left, a pitcher on the table, and a cloth hung on the end of the bench near the man. The ceiling has broad wooden beams, and the floor is constructed from broad planks, which emphasize the deep perspective of the room. A garment hangs above the figure, to right of the window, and an unframed picture and a hat hang on the left wall.

SITTER

The sitter, defined by Whistler as a miser, has not been identified. David Curry noted that the title could not be taken literally because it was highly unlikely that the man would count his hoard in Whistler's sight! 10 However, it is possible that Whistler and his companion Ernest Delannoy felt that their landlord was a mean character. The room was obviously bare and cold (the man was wearing a greatcoat).

10: Curry 1984 B [more].

SITE

Etching: c_K069_01
Chambre la ferme de Maladrie m0229
Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
According to the source drawing for this etching, reproduced above, the scene is a room in the farm of Maladrie, which is a small country town in the province of Namur, Belgium. On another page from his sketchbook Whistler drew his companion, Delannoy, sleeping on a bench at the end of a bed, and this was also inscribed, A la ferme de Maladrie m0230. It is likely that the two artists spent the night in farms along their route, and this could be the farmhouse kitchen, where labourers ate at the long table.

DISCUSSION

The slightly confusing perspective of the table and bench is seen in this drypoint and in the original drawing (Chambre la ferme de Maladrie m0229). In the drawing there appear to be more objects - possibly food - on the table near the man.
Mansfield described the setting as 'a wretched room' in Maladrie; this is to a certain extent justified by the lack of carpet, rugs, curtains or shutters, and by the fact that it appears to be very cold. 11

11: Mansfield 1909 [more] (cat. no. 69).