Grand' Place, Brussels

Accession Number

Grand' Place, Brussels

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
etching and drypoint, printed in dark brown ink on old laid paper, trimmed to platemark

8 11/16 in. x 5 9/16 in. ( 22.1 cm x 14.2 cm )

Credit Line
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker

Label copy
Gran’ Place, Brussels
Only state (Kennedy 362)
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker, 1954/1.401
Whistler traveled to Belgium in 1887 with his brother and sister-in-law, Dr. and Mrs. William Whistler. His views of Brussels are largely shop fronts and cropped views of houses, with the exception of this depiction of the Maison des Ducs de Brabant, one of the impressive public buildings on the Grand Place; designed around 1696 by Guillaume de Bruyn (1649-1719), it united seven different houses behind a single classical facade. The fine etching, balanced at the bottom by a subtle use of plate tone, describes the features of the facade with a light touch—the mass of the building that occupies the entire east side of the square is treated as a filigree of lines.
While sketching this structure in the heart of Brussels, Whistler was surrounded by curious onlookers, whom he scattered by pointing his etching needle at them as if it were a sword and emphatically saying, “Ha! Ha!”

Subject matter
Although Whistler never provided a direct depiction of the principal public space in Venice, St. Mark's Square, this etching does show the main square in Brussels, the Grand Place, as well as the Maison des Ducs de Brabant that dominates the square.

Physical Description
A large building with an open square before it dominates the composition. The building has elaborate architectural elements and is clearly a public or official place and has an arched pediment, finials, pilasters, and extensive glazing. In the square before the building are groupings of figures.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
intaglio print

Collection Area

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buildings (structures)
public buildings (governmental buildings)
squares (open spaces)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted