A nighttime view of canals in Venice. Walls of buildings at rough right angles to one another, connected by a footbridge in the distance, are lit to reveal massings of the architecture--balconies, doorways, windows. There are not people apparent; the sky and water are both very dark.
Whistler experimented with artistic printing with his etchings of Venice, retaining films of ink that create an atmospheric effect. In this plate, these films of ink are used to evoke the dark, humid environment of Venice, seen principally in the regions of the sky and water. Plates like "Nocturne: Palaces" were printed so that the amount of ink retained varied, creating very different atmospheric effects.
Printed inscription below image: Juppiter atque Hermes spetie mortalis ____rrgue Hospitium inueniunt gratum, cum paupere mensa/Lustrantes Phrygiam, sub amaena crepuseula moetis. Baucidis, disgaudent Divi, et sua dona rependunt./HGoudt Palsat. Comes, et Sur. Mil. Cyues, Nob. viro D._?. Goudt/patri suo Pictura et oim insignium artium amatori DD 1612. Watermark (partial): [visible on verso at l.r. edge] Collectors' Marks: located below image at l.l.: G.A.C.; at l.r.: M. WBS; on verso: at l.l. corner (partial), at lower center: G.A.C. Two faint notations in brown ink, both illegible, at l.l. and at l.r.: AB___
Two lamps provide the only source of light in this nighttime interior and the scene is full of dark shadows and areas highlighted by white. Two men are seated at a table- one is a bearded man wearing long robes and the other has a staff and a hat with wings. They are looking at a woman, wearing a cloth headdress and a long dress, who stands before them. On the left is a man entering through a doorway. The features of the room are shown in great detail including the assortment of food, hanging vegetables and baskets, a wall tapestry, the rough wood planking and decorative designs on the bedding. There is a printed Latin inscription below this scene.
This print is based on a painting by Adam Elsheimer and depicts the story of Philemon and Baucis from Ovid's "Metamorphoses." The elderly couple unknowingly offers hospitality to Jupiter and Mercury, who are disguised as beggars. In gratitute for their generosity, the gods granted their wish that neither outlive the other but die together; they were changed into an oak tree and a linden tree, their trunks intertwined. Rather then focusing on the moment of miraculous transformation, this composition portrays the humble, but richly described, interior as Baucis speaks to her divine visitors.