The Princess from the Land of Porcelain (La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine)

Standing figure of a woman in a kimono, holding a fan.

Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
Oil on canvas
H x W (painting): 201.5 x 116.1 cm (79 5/16 x 45 11/16 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 12: The Peacock Room Comes to America

Oil painting

fan, princess, United States, woman

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's (1828-1882) studio, London [1]

Unidentified collector, purchased from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's studio [2]

From at least 1872 to 1892
Frederick Richards Leyland (1831-1892), London, purchased from the estate of the unidentified collector, from at least 1872 [3]

From 1892
Alexander Reid (1854-1928), Glasgow, purchased at auction, Christie's, London, May 28, 1892, no. 39 [4]

From ca. 1894-1895 to 1903
Sir William Burrell (1861-1958), Glasgow, purchased from Alexander Reid ca. 1894-1895 [5]

From 1903 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Sir William Burrell in 1903 [6]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [7]


[1] See Curatorial Remark 5, Susan Hobbs, 1977, and Curatorial Remark 11, Lee Glazer, May 25, 2010, in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

[4] See note 1.

[5] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, page 10, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[6] Purchased by C.L. Freer on August 20, 1903, as the "The Princess of Porcelain," see notes 1 and 5.

[7] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Studio 1828-1882
Frederick Richards Leyland 1831-1892
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Alexander Reid 1854-1928
Sir William Burrell (C.L. Freer source) 1861-1958


Standing figure of a woman in a kimono, holding a fan.


This painting, which hangs over the mantel in the Peacock Room, was part of a series of costume pictures undertaken by Whistler in the mid-1860s in which western models appear in Asian dress, surrounded by Chinese and Japanese objects from Whistler's own collections. He modeled the princess on Christina Spartali, a young woman of Greek descent who is dressed in a kimono and surrounded by luxurious objects that suggest an imaginary "land of porcelain." Not intended as a portrait, the painting instead demonstrated a new ideal of beauty, one derived from Japanese ukiyo-e prints and the elongated figures painted on Chinese porcelain. Whistler never visited Asia, and his appropriation of eastern objects was intended to evoke the temporal and spatial distance of a far off realm.

Several years before the Peacock Room was ever conceived, Frederick Leyland bought this painting from Whistler. After purchasing a new house in 1875, Leyland hung it over the mantelpiece in the dining room. He intended to transform the space into a porcelainzimmer, an opulent room lined with shelves to hold prized pieces from his extensive collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. Whistler suggested some changes to the color scheme of the room which would, he told Leyland, better harmonize with the palette of the Princesse. The final result, of course, was Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room. After Leyland's death in 1892, the Princesse was purchased by the Glasgow collector William Burrell, who subsequently sold it to Charles Lang Freer in 1903, the year of Whistler's death.

Published References
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  • Klaus Berger. Japonisme in Western Painting from Whistler to Matisse. Cambridge, England. pp. 36, 44.
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  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., 1st ed. New York, 1907. cat. 32, pp. 58-60, 160.
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  • Harry Graf Kessler. Whistler. vol. 3 Berlin, August 1905. p. 458.
  • James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Masters in Art, vol. 8, December 1907. pp. 469, 497, 502, pls. 3, 111.
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  • Catherine Carter Goebel. Arrangement in Black and White: The making of a Whistler legend. Ann Arbor. pp. 721-727, 780, pl. 18.
  • Susan Hobbs. Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. vol. 120, no. 5 New York, November 1981. pp. 1198-1200, pls. 8, 9.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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