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“The Princess from the Land of Porcelain” by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

"The Princess from the Land of Porcelain" by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

The Princess from the Land of Porcelain

“Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain” by James Abbott McNeill Whistler depicts a Western woman wearing a kimono and standing amidst numerous Asian objects, including a rug and screen, as well as some porcelain.

The woman holds a hand fan, and her pose echos the elongated Asian female figures depicted in ancient Asian artworks.

“The Princess” is one of several of Whistler’s works painted during the 1860s that depict a Western woman with Asian motifs and Asian clothes.

Princess was painted between 1863 and 1865 with Christine Spartali, the sister of Pre-Raphaelite artist Marie Spartali Stillman, serving as the model. Spartali has been described as an Anglo-Greek beauty “whom all the artists of the day were clamoring to paint.”

Whistler’s large signature on the top left of the canvas drew critical comments. The highly prominent signature also led to potential buyers withdrawing from purchasing the artwork because of the signature’s prominence.

Whistler’s prominent signature criticism prompted Whistler to develop his more subtle butterfly-style signature in his future artworks.

The painting did not sell after exhibitions, and Whistler’s friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti held the painting for a while. Several years later, the portrait was bought by the British shipping magnate Frederick Richards Leyland.

Leyland purchased the painting to displayed “The Princess” in a dining room filled with his Kangxi Chinese ceramics collection.

Whistler suggested to Leyland that he should modify and adapt the dining room’s decorations to better accent the painting. When the artist, Thomas Jeckyll, responsible for redesigning, fell ill, the project was handed to Whistler.

The result of Whistler’s work was The Peacock Room. Unfortunately, Whistler’s modifications far exceeded those requested by Leyland, resulting in a quarrel between them.

After Leyland’s death, “The Princess” was sold, and a few years later, Charles Lang Freer acquired it in 1903.

Freer kept the painting in his home in Detroit, Michigan, and in the following year, he acquired The Peacock Room.

In 1906 Freer donated both “The Princess” and The Peacock Room to the Smithsonian.

"The Princess from the Land of Porcelain" by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

“The Peacock Room” by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

After Freer died in 1919, both “The Princess” and The Peacock Room were moved to the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., a Smithsonian museum established by Freer.

Today, “The Princess from the Land of Porcelain” is exhibited in The Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery of Art, shown hung above the fireplace amidst Asian ceramics. 

Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain

  • Title:                          Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain
  • French:                      La Princesse du pays de la Porcelaine
  • Artist:                        James McNeill Whistler
  • Year:                          1865
  • Medium:                   Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions               201.5 cm × 116.1 cm (79.3 in × 45.7 in)
  • Category:                  American Artist
  • Museum:                  Freer Gallery of Art

"The Princess from the Land of Porcelain" by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) was an American artist active during the American Gilded Age and based primarily in the United Kingdom.

He was averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting and was a leading proponent of the credo “art for art’s sake.”

He found a parallel between painting and music and entitled many of his paintings “arrangements,” “harmonies,” and “nocturnes,” emphasizing the importance of tonal harmony.

Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his artistic theories and his friendships with leading artists and writers.

His famous signature for his paintings was in the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail.

James McNeill Whistler

The Princess from the Land of Porcelain in The Peacock Room – 360 views

The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, James McNeill Whistler

The Princess from the Land of Porcelain in The Peacock Room

Virtual Tour of the Freer Gallery of Art

~~~

“I have made you famous.
My work will live when you are forgotten.”
– James Abbott McNeill Whistler

~~~


Photo Credit: 1) Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries / CC BY-SA (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0); Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M Sackler Gallery / CC BY-SA (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0); James Abbott McNeill Whistler / Public domain; National Endowment for the Humanities / Public domain

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