Four girls stand in, adjacent to, or in front of a dark open doorway. The doorway is cropped at the top, focussing on the figures. To the right is the partial view of a window.
During the 1880s, Whistler focused on depicting street-scapes, both views of shop fronts and facades and works, such as this, which seem to capture a smaller fragment of that larger subject. Often, Whistler filled the image with architecture, eliminating the sky and building the composition on the visual structure provided by windows and doorways. Here three girls lounge before a darkened open doorway. This site has been indentified by the Glasgow catalogue raisonné as being in Cumberland in north-west England that Whistler visited in August of 1886.
On the plate, right center: Butterfly monogram Signed, in pencil, on tab, l.l.: Butterfly monogram and imp. Watermark: (small) Notation on back, in pencil, not by Whistler: K.362 only state/The Grande [sic] Place, Brussels (see catalogue card).
A large building with an open square before it dominates the composition. The building has elaborate architectural elements and is clearly a public or official place and has an arched pediment, finials, pilasters, and extensive glazing. In the square before the building are groupings of figures.
Although Whistler never provided a direct depiction of the principal public space in Venice, St. Mark's Square, this etching does show the main square in Brussels, the Grand Place, as well as the Maison des Ducs de Brabant that dominates the square.
An old woman in a white cap sits in a cluttered interior. Positioned just inside the doorway, the woman is surrounded by piles of cloth with domestic objects on shelves and walls that gleam in the darkness.
The images of Whistler's French Set reflect the artistic trends current in Paris when Whistler was a student there. "La Vieille aux Loques", with its concern for working class figures, demonstrates Whistler's early orientation towards the work of Courbet. Throughout his career, Whistler mantained an interest in depicting working class and humble subjects; however, the beauty of his depictions elevated such works beyond the gritty realism of early works such as this etching.
A courtyard is depicted in the foreground with a doorway leading to a long passage in the distance at the right. The chief object of interest is the elaborate portal out of the couryard, flanked by columns and above which is a window with a balcony. Two faintly drawn windows are visible to the left, in front of which two figures sit together on a bench; there is indication of two stories of windows above the doorway, although the one of the third floor is only loosely indicated. The quoined edges of a tall wall at the right leads to a low wall on the right side in the foreground. In the foreground at the left are three children.
Whistler lived near the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and drew the courtyard of this retreat for pensioners that was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1682.