San Biagio

Archway over a canal with boats on the water

James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
San Biagio, 1880
Etching and drypoint, brownish-black ink on ivory laid paper
8 3/8 × 12 in. (21.3 × 30.6 cm)
Published in the Second Venice Set (“A Set of Twenty-Six Etchings by James A. McN. Whistler,” 1886)
Seventeenth state of seventeen
Signed at left in plate and in graphite in tab at lower left: Whistler’s butterfly monogram
Gertrude Kosovsky Collection
© The Frick Collection

 

Beyond the water-filled foreground, a sunlit facade of varied textures stretches across the surface of the print. An adjoining piazza is glimpsed through a deeply shadowed archway in this working-class area. Hanging laundry connects two spatial realms. Throughout, local residents go about their activities. Delicately etched lines combine with darker accents of drypoint and tone, added in the printing process, to create atmospheric effects.  A reviewer of the time commented on Whistler's "masterly treatment . . . of the transparency of the water . . . which in etching is little short of surprising."