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

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Flesh Colour and Rose

Titles

Whistler's original title is not known; suggested titles are as follows:

  • 'Flesh color and Rose' (1889?, Whistler?). 1
  • Possibly 'Flesh Colour and White' or 'Flesh Colour and Red' (1889, Wunderlich's). 2
  • 'A Cup of Tea' (1908, E. R. & J. Pennell). 3
  • 'Nude model seated, drinking tea' (1919, Knoedler's). 4
  • 'Seated Nude' (nd., Fogg Art Museum).
  • 'The Fortune Teller – a red note' [sic] (1995, MacDonald). 5


                    Flesh Colour and Rose, Fogg Art Museum
Flesh Colour and Rose, Fogg Art Museum

The title written on the verso, 'Flesh color and Rose' (with the American spelling of 'color') was probably added at the time of the Wunderlich show in 1889. However, no. 59 in that show was entitled 'Flesh Colour and Red' and there is no red in this pastel. It is also just possible that it was 'Flesh Colour and White' (cat. no. 58) or another pastel in the Wunderlich show. Unfortunately there is no other record of these pastels.

In this catalogue raisonné Whistler's title or the first published title is retained, wherever possible. The use of 'Flesh Color' to describe colour, as here, could imply a racist presumption that skin tone is defined as 'white' or Caucasian. In this case it presumably means the pale white and cream of the model's skin, or the pale pinkish orange of the drapery on which she is sitting. The 'rose' could be the pink touches to her face, or might indicate that the model was Rose Amy Pettigrew (1872-1958).

The blue and white porcelain, including the tea cup held by the young woman, might suggest that she was telling her fortune from the tea leaves. However, it is highly unlikely that this was, as suggested in the 1995 catalogue raisonné, The Fortune Teller – a red note. That title applies almost certainly to r.: The Fortune Teller; v.: A nude lying on a sofa [M.1274].

'Flesh Colour and Rose' (based on the inscription but with the spelling adjusted to English for consistency) is the preferred title.

Description


                    Flesh Colour and Rose, Fogg Art Museum
Flesh Colour and Rose, Fogg Art Museum

A drawing in vertical format, showing a young nude woman sitting in profile to left, holding a cup of tea. Her left leg is crossed over, resting on her right leg. She is sitting on some draperies spread on a bench, and to right, on the bench, is a tray with blue and white porcelain, including a tea pot.

Sitter

Given the title, it is possible this is a drawing of Rose Amy Pettigrew (1872-1958) .

Notes:

1: Written on verso.

2: “Notes” – “Harmonies” – “Nocturnes”, H. Wunderlich & Co., New York, 1889 (cat. no. 58 and 59).

3: Pennell 1908 [more] , vol. 2, repr. f.p. 206.

4: Knoedler, New York, 1919 accounts.

5: MacDonald 1995 (cat. rais.) [more] (cat. no. 1083).

Last updated: 25th June 2021 by Margaret