The Grand Canal, Venice

Artist: Unknown , formerly attributed to James McNeill Whister
Historical period(s)
ca. 1879-1880
Pastel on tan paper
H x W: 17.4 x 27 cm (6 7/8 x 10 5/8 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


forgery, river, United States

To 1904
Obach & Co., London, to 1904 [1]

From 1904 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Obach & Co. in 1904 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 27, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] 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)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Obach & Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1884-1911


The provenance of this problematic pastel suggests that when Whistler died in 1903, it was were either in his studio or owned by one of his close associates. We know that many of the artists Whistler worked with in Venice drew Whistlerian pastels of the city, and that Whistler owned Venice pastels by at least one of them, a fact that friends like Thomas Robert Way, who helped settle Whistler's estate, may not have realized. It is possible that Way or another associate found this pastel in Whistler's studio, assumed it was by Whistler, and added the butterfly monogram to make it more saleable.

Published References
  • Alfred Lys Baldry. James McNeill Whistler, His Art and Influence. vol. 29, no. 126 London, September 1903. pp. 237 - 245, 247.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. p. 258, pl. 245.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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