Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow

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Harmony in Black, No. 10


Several possible titles have been suggested:

  • 'Harmony in Black, No. 10' (1887, Royal Society of British Artists). 1
  • 'Arrangement en noir' (1887, Petit). 2
  • 'Harmony in Black, No. 10' (1980, YMSM). 3

There were no 'Harmonies in Black' numbered 1-9. Whistler's usual terminology was 'Arrangement in Black' (including Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland [YMSM 097]) and there were nine of these. Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate [YMSM 315] was sometimes called 'No. 9' by Whistler. Perhaps he was confusing the two series, and thought this 'Harmony in Black' was the tenth in the sequence of 'Arrangements in Black'.

However, the original title 'Harmony in Black, No. 10' is preferred.


It was described in the Magazine of Art:

'a young lady in a black walking costume, seen on a black ground, the only relief given to the picture being the small feather of neutral tint in her hat, and a small vague object of dark red, cleverly enveloped in the murky atmosphere of the middle distance.' 4

The 'small vague object of dark red' was undoubtedly Whistler's butterfly signature, which is visible in caricatures of the painting.

It was also described by Guigon when it was exhibited in Paris:

'La femme, d'une élégance maigre, se dresse en vêtements très sombres sur un fond gris, terne, mais élastique, comme baignée de l'air du crépuscule. Sous le chapeau aux larges ailes, la figure, d'un ton rose vivace ... illumine toute la toile.' 5

A rough translation is as follows:

'The woman, lean and elegant, stands in very dark clothes against a gray background, subdued, but elastic, as if soaked in the air of dusk. Under the hat with its broad wings, the face, of a vivacious pink tone, ... illuminates the entire canvas.'

The model was also described in L’Évènement, 18 August 1888, as

'sanglée dans une veste d'homme, la boutonnière fleurie d'une rose d'un rose mat, du même rose mat et glacé de ses lèvres … la pose des mains crânement enfoncées dans les poches, dans l'avancement du buste et le retraît des hanches'.

Even more freely translated: 'confined in a man's jacket, a pink rose in her buttonhole, the same mat and glossy pink as her lips … the pose, with hands jauntily shoved in pockets, her bust pushed forward and hips, back.'


Maud Franklin (1857-1939).

A Portrait: Maud, Whereabouts unknown
A Portrait: Maud, Whereabouts unknown
Detail of At the Whistleries, Suffolk Street, from Judy, 8 December 1886
Detail of At the Whistleries, Suffolk Street, from Judy, 8 December 1886

The caricature by J. Bernard Partridge (1861-1945) of Harmony in Black, No. 10 [YMSM 357], published in Judy, 8 December 1886, looks sufficiently like A Portrait: Maud [YMSM 186] to suggest Harmony in Black, No. 10 was a portrait of Maud Franklin, possibly the last one of her.


1: 64th Annual Exhibition, Royal Society of British Artists, London, 1887 (cat. no. 12).

2: Exposition Internationale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1887 (cat. no. 211).

3: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no 357).

4: Anon., 'Current Art', Magazine of Art, vol. 10, 1887, pp. 109-13, at p. 111.

5: Guigon 1887 [more].

Last updated: 30th October 2020 by Margaret