The Pierrot

Accession Number

The Pierrot

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
etching and drypoint, printed in dark brown ink on wove paper

9 1/8 in. x 6 5/16 in. ( 23.1 cm x 16 cm )

Credit Line
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker

Label copy
Etching and drypoint
Fifth state of five (Kennedy 407)
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker, 1954/1.406
This was one of Whistler’s favorites of the Amsterdam etchings. The dilapidated doorway of the house, possibly a dyer’s establishment, is consumed in shadow and the play of light and dark recalls the chiaroscuro of seventeenth-century Dutch prints, while the water-door and reflections bring to mind Whistler’s own etchings of Venice (such as The Doorway). As in the other Amsterdam views, the dark, tonal areas are no longer created by selective wiping of the ink on the plate, but rather by dense networks of overlapping lines.

Subject matter
According to the Glasgow catalogue raisonné, there was a general revival of interest in the rococo, and thus with Pierrot, one of the principal figures of the commedia dell'arte, a seventeeth-century troupe of actors. The Symbolists were also fascinated with the enigmatic figure of Pierrot and Whistler's friendship with Stéphane Mallarmé may also be related to Whistler's choice of this figure for the title of this print.
This work and "Balcony, Amsterdam" were done on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, then known as Rottenest. The store front is part of the back of Zeedijk no. 52.

Physical Description
A man stands in an apron and rolled sleeves in the water door of a building along a canal. Another figure is seen kneeling and reaching down to the water at the left edge of the water door. The building and its reflection fills the frame; the emphasis is on the figures in the darkened opening, along with their reflections, while the upper story of the building is only summarily indicated.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
intaglio print

Collection Area

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bodies of water (natural)
canals (waterways)
reflections (perceived properties)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted