On a Venetian Canal long thought to have been by James Abbot McNeill Whistler (1834–1903). Pastel. (1903). Source: Menpes, "Reminiscences of Whistler."[Click on image to enlarge it.]

In fact, this is a problematic pastel, which was thought to be by Whistler because it was either in his studio when he died in 1903, or was owned by one of his close associates. Entitled The Grand Canal, Venice, it is now in the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art (Accession Number F1904.88a-c), where the label reads: "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." Many thanks to Professor Margaret Macdonald for drawing this to our attention.

Text and formatting by George P. Landow, updated by Jacqueline Banerjee, with thanks to Professor Margaret MacDonald for her useful information. You may use the image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Internet Archive and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


The Grand Canal, Venice. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. Web. 23 January 2021.

MacDonald, Margaret F. and Grischka Petri. James McNeill Whistler: The paintings, a catalogue raisonné. University of Glasgow, 2020; click here to visit the website.

Menpes, Dorothy. "Reminiscences of Whistler by Mortimer Menpes." The Studio 29 (1903): 245-45. Internet Archive. Web. 12 January 2012.

Last modified 23 February 2021