Signed and dated in plate, u.l.: Ed. Yon -73 Letters in margin, l.l.: E. Yon, del. et sc. ; l.c.: A SAINT OUEN ; l.r.: A CADART Edit. Imp. Rue Nve des Mathurins, 58, Paris. ; u.r.: 7. Watermark, c.c.: AM in medallion
The curving bank of a river begins at the lower left of the image and sweeps around towards the left. Hugging the water's edge are many wooden buildings of two to five stories in height. At the far left, in the distance, are numerous two- and three-masted ships at anchor. The water at the lower left is open and quiet; a few small boats can be seen; the sky indicates that it is an overcast day.
In the later 1870s, Whistler revisited subjects of the docks and wharves along the Pool of London; his etchings of such views in the "Thames Set" had been very popular. This site along the Thames is seen from Limehouse, on the right is the Free Trade Wharf in Ratcliffe.
Seen from the surface of a river, a segment of a wooden bridge carries both carriages and pedestrians across the span. The piers of the bridge are reinforced with horizontal boards to protect against collision. Between the piers the distant shore shows numerous buildings and dry-dock cranes. In the center span, a low boat with a sail is about to pass under the bridge, moving towards the viewer.
The Old Battersea Bridge was slated for demolition to begin in 1883 and Whistler returned to the portrayal of the picturesque old timber structure in nearly all media--painting, pastel, lithography, and etching. The low vantage point looking between the piers shows Whistler's affinity with Japanese woodblock prints of similar subjects.
Two men sit on a bench at the lower right. Behind them is a large expanse of water; barges ply the water while smokestacks and buildings are visible on the opposite shore. The overall impression is one of foggy weather and features are generally indistinct.
Whistler found that liminal times of day offered effects that he could translate into a particularly appealing visual poetry. Many of his works sited from the part of Chelsea where he lived looked across the Thames towards the industrial establishments of London; these unpromising views were transformed by his atmospheric and evocative portrayals.