Soupe à Trois Sous

Bar with seated figures and bottles on the tables

James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903)
Soupe à Trois Sous, 1859
Etching, black ink on cream Japanese gampi paper, laid down on white Japanese paper
6 × 9 in. (15.2 × 22.8 cm)
Only state
Signed at upper right in plate: “Whistler.–”
Gertrude Kosovsky Collection
© The Frick Collection

 

In an inexpensive Parisian cafe (as implied by the print's title), five men sit in various states of repose. Although the dark curly hair, mustache, and beard of the figure at left led one early critic to identify him as Whistler, he is in fact modeled after Henri Martin, a former soldier. The watchful young man seems out of place in his surroundings, unlike his nocturnal companions, whose features are largely hidden or dulled by the alcohol in the conspicuously placed bottles. The fibrous gampi paper support imparts a warm tone, perhaps suggesting the glow from the overhead gaslight.