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The Palace in Rags

James Abbott McNeil Whistler

American (1834-1903)

The Palace in Rags, 1879-80
Chalk and pastel on brown paper, 11 x 6 ½ inches

To view a video of Tom speaking about this artwork, click here.


The artists’ cousin, Ross Winans, Baltimore, Maryland
Albert Rouillier Art Galleries, Chicago
Purchased from the above by Marshall Field, Chicago, 23 November 1915
Passed to his widow, later Mrs. Diego Suarez
Purchased from the above by Knoedler Galleries, New York, 15 June 1960
Purchased from the above by Norman B. Woolworth, May 1961
Purchased through R. M. Light, California by Agnew, London, 1974
Purchased by a Private Collection, London, 1974-2014


Country Gentlemen, 5 February 1881

Daily Telegraph, 5 February 1881

T.R. Way, Memories of James McNeill Whistler, the Artist, London and New York, 1912, pg. 52, no. 33, illustrated

Margaret F. MacDonald, Whistler, The Graphic Work: Amsterdam, Liverpool, London, Venice, Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, 1976, pg. 26 & 44, no. 99, plate 6, illustrated

R. Dorment and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, New York, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995, pg. 184-185, no. 105, illustrated

Alastair Grieve and Margaret F. MacDonald, Whistler in Venice, 1994

Margaret F. MacDonald, Drawings, Pastels, and Watercolours: A Catalogue

Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995, p. 283, no. 770, illustrated

Alastair Grieve, Whistler’s Venice, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2000, pg. 72-74, illustrated no. 75

Margaret F. MacDonald, Palaces in the Night: Whistler in Venice, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2001, pg. 19, 21 (illustrated), 99

Eric Denker, Whistler and his Circle in Venice, London, Merrell Publishers Limited, 2003, pg. 26-27, fig. 6


London, Fine Arts Society, Venice Pastels, opened 29 January 1881, no. 33 as The Palace in Rags, lent by a private collection, Great Britain

New York, Kennedy & Co., Pastels, Etchings and Lithographs by Whistler, November 1914, no. 5 as titled

New York, Carroll Carstairs, Whistler Pastels and Water Colours, 12 January – 5 February 1938 (2)

New York and London, James McNeill Whistler, Arts Council Gallery, 1-24 September 1960; Knoedler Galleries, 2-30 November 1960, pg. 77-78, no. 80, lent by Mrs. Diego Suarez

New York, Coe Kerr Galleries, Drawings and Watercolours, 17th – 20th Centuries, January-February 1972

Margaret F. MacDonald, Whistler, The Graphic Work: Amsterdam, Liverpool,

London, Venice, T. Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London, 6-30 July 1976; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 20 August-26 September 1976; Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, 7 October-11 November 1976

Margaret F. MacDonald, Notes, Harmonies, Nocturnes, Knoedler & Co., 30 November-18 December 1984, no 88

R. Dorment and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, Tate Gallery, London, 13 October 1994-8 January 1995; Musee d’Orsay, Paris, 6 February-30 April 1995; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 28 May-20 August 1995, pg. 184-185, no. 105, illustrated

A note from the catalogue card:

One of only two interior views Whistler created in Venice, The Palace in Rags was selected by the artist for his 1881 exhibition of fifty three Venetian pastels at The Fine Art Society in London. While the exact location of this palazzo interior is unknown, it was also the subject of a painting  about the same time by John Singer Sargent, Whistler’s young acquaintance. There is speculation that this room was used by the artists as an exhibition room given the number of paintings hanging on the wall at the left.

The particular beauty of this romantically evocative work lies in the interplay of the exquisitely subtle suggestions of reflected light that simultaneously denote substance and describe surface.

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