An adolescent girl sits in a chair facing to the left, her hands resting in her lap. Her hair is loose around her shoulders and pulled back from her face. Her skirt consists of tiers of ruffles or other fabic. She has a pensive expression and her face is seen in profile.
Whistler's principal patron patron in the 1870s was Frederick Leyland and Whistler created portraits of all of the family members, including this drypoint of the eldest Leyland daughter, Fanny.
Several figures are seen within an interior; the two principal figures are each bent over their tasks. The man at the bottom of the image holds a hammer in his left hand and is about to strike something held in his right hand that is positioned on an anvil; his figure is leaning forward, in profile, facing to the right. The other figure sits with his back to the viewer, facing to the left and towards a window at the far left. The furnace is visible at the center background, and other figures are lightly drawn in at the far right. Deep shadows and a timber ceiling create a sense of a dark interior and numerous horseshoes are visible on the wall between the furnace and the window.
Whistler’s interest in scenes of working class men is captured here in a reprise of his earlier theme of "The Forge" from 1861. Instead of the effects of the furnace itself, this view of a smithy’s shop is focused on labor. Two men work with their backs to one another, forming complementary arcs as they bend over their tasks. The man in the foreground is working the hot metal on an anvil while in the background the other man is seated at a bench before the window. Three other figures are seen at the right and emblems of their labor—horseshoes—are visible hanging on the wall. The Rembrandtesque interest in chiaroscuro in a darkened room remains a constant motif in Whistler’s etchings.
The scene takes place in a dark interior room, seen from the street. the roough stone of the doorway frames a seated woman and a young boy standing nearby. In addition to light illuminating the interior from the street, there is a recessed window niche along the left wall of the room.
Whistler portrayed this interior located in the fifth arrondissement of Paris, which was an older poor region on the left bank that was home to many poor workers. Along with his other Parisian portraits and sketches done on his walking journey that were grouped into the "French Set", this work shows Whistler drawing picturesque places and depicting images of labor akin to those of Gustave Courbet.
Two men smoking long-stem pipes are seen sitting on a balcony. Behind them are visible the masts of ships along the bank, and further behind them in the distance a river sweeps towards the left. Buildings crowd the shore and boats are shown moored or in the river.
Whistler spent several months in the commercial districts of London during 1859 and his etchings of the warehouses, docks, and people of Battersea and, in this instance Wapping, became the foundation of the Thames Set etchings, published in 1871. Densely clustered lines and careful observation characterize these views along the Thames. Charles Baudelaire celebrated the modernity of these views of London when a group of them were shown in Paris in 1862, describing them as “subtle and lively as improvisation and inspiration,” expressing with their “wonderful tangles of rigging, yardarms and rope; farragos of fog, furnaces and corkscrews of smoke; the profound and intricate poetry of a vast capital.”
A young woman is seen sitting in profile. She faces to the right, her head bent downward, her waving hair framing her face and falling down her back. Only the face and hair are drawn fully, the rest of the woman's body is quickly drawn in a few lines.
Whistler's "secret of drawing" approach allows him here to concentrate on Joanna Hiffernan's profile, describing the rest of her body in a few cursory lines.
Margaret Watson Parker acquired three impressions taken from this plate, each has differences in printing and papers.