Fumette

sketch of a portrait of woman in a crouched position

James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
Fumette, 1858
Etching and drypoint, black ink on cream French laid paper
6 3/8 × 4 1/4 in. (16.3 × 10.9 cm)
Published in the French Set (“Twelve Etchings from Nature,” 1858)
Fifth state of five
Signed at lower right in plate: “Whistler”
Gertrude Kosovsky Collection
© The Frick Collection

 

Whistler's mistress, nicknamed Fumette, was his model for this print. She embodies the grisette, a working-class woman of Paris, demonstrating Whistler's realist tendencies at this time. With its lace collar, fitted bodice, full skirt, and apron, Fumette's costume may indicate her occupation as a seamstress or Whistler's budding fashion interests. Her loosened hair and informal crouched position accentuate her bohemian character, while her calm expression belies her reportedly fiery temper, which prompted Whistler to call her "the tigress."