Steel anvil with removable wood handle, formerly owned by Whistler

Historical period(s)
mid 19th century
Steel, wood
H x W: 3.8 x 8.9 cm (1 1/2 x 3 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Tool and Equipment



James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) [1]

To 1908
Otto H. Bacher (1856-1909), New York, NY, given by James McNeill Whistler, to 1908 [2]

From 1908 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Otto H. Bacher in 1908 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] According to Curatorial Remark 2 in the object record: "(Undated folder sheet note) Presented by Mr. Whistler to Mr. Bacher."

[2] See Whistler Reserved List, R. 35, pg. 4, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] See note 2.

[4] 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)

James McNeill Whistler 1834-1903
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Otto H. Bacher (C.L. Freer source) 1856-1909


Freer purchased this anvil and a hammer from the etcher Otto Bacher in 1908. Bacher had worked with Whistler in Venice in 1879-80, and told Freer that the tools had previously belonged to Whistler. Whistler would have used them to remove lines from plates that had already been etched. To do this, he would have placed his plate upside down on the anvil and hammered the lines out from the back. After beating out the unwanted lines, Whistler would have had to repolish the front of the plate before adding new lines to it.  

Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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