Two women on a settee dressed in elegant 19th century attire, one holding a fan and the other a parasol, while another richly clad woman leans in close beside them, in a lavishly decorated interior setting with ornately carved gilded walls, a large mirror above the settee, inlaid marble floor, and large vases to either side of the settee. In the center of the room is a sculpture of the Medici Venus on a pedestal with her back to the viewer, her reflection evident in the mirror. Between the base of the sculpture and the viewer is an elaborately carved gilt stool covered with rich red fabric. Beside the sculpture, another woman holding a book walks towards the cluster of women.
Elegantly dressed women in 19th century attire whisper and titter about the sculpture of Venus de’Medici in the center of the room, depicting the goddess in a fleeting pose as she unsuccessfully attempts to cover her nude body with her arms in a gesture of modesty. Gilardi, who places Venus’s back to the viewer, cleverly reveals her front side reflected in a mirror above a settee upon which the women are seated, enabling the viewer to see both the expressions of the women and what it is they are whispering about, creating a witty commentary on the prudish social mores of 19th century puritanical society.
Signed in pencil on tab: butterfly Inscribed in pencil, on verso, l.l. (in Whistler's hand): "Battersea Morn" - 1st - / Plate destroyed Signed on the plate, u.r.: butterfly Watermark: Arms of Amsterdam
A stretch of water in the foreground and middle ground leads to a horizontal distant shore that is composed of a series of horizontal stepped recessions. The buildings on the far shore appear to be industrial buildings, with many smokestacks. At the bottom of the image are some lightly drawn boats.
Whsitler's home in Chelsea afforded him with views such as this looking towards the commercial portions of Battersea, across the Thames. Whistler favored depicting the river at transitional times of day: dawn, dusk, nighttime because the reduced lighting suggested a poetic beauty, even of warehouses, that broad daylight did not. Here, at dawn, Whistler captures the moment when the shape and mass of objects just begins to coalesce and take on substance.
The upper two stories of buildings in a narrow city street are drawn, the ground floor left undescribed. The vantage point severly crops and foreshortens the buildings on the right side of the street but gives a fuller view of the gables and overhangs of the buildings on the left side of the street.
Whistler's interest in depicting picturesque old buildings and the sharp recession provided by closely build houses goes back to "The Street at Saverne" from the French Set. These old structures were also captured by the photographers Alfred and John Bool (see 1991/1.114) and may possibly reflect Whistler's interest in recording, and possibly preserving, distinctive older architecture.
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.
A distinguished looking man sits in a bust-length, three-quarter view, his face turned to straight profile, facing to the left. He has a moustache and goatee and a high collared shirt.
Viscount Garnet Joseph Wolseley (then Lord Wolseley) was a field marshal in the British army and had served in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, as well as in Sudan, Burma, and China. He was among the distinguished celebrities and other guests to Whistler's American breakfasts (more like brunch).
Signed in print, l.r.: Lalanne Dated and Inscribed, l.l.: à Haarlem 1877 Letters in margin, l.l.: Maxime Lalanne, del. et sc. L'Art ; l.c.: A HAARLEM (Hollande) ; l.r.: Fcois Liénard, Imp. Paris. Watermark, u.r.: ARC[HES]