The Balcony

James Abbott McNeill Whistler


In 1879 Whistler was commissioned to make a set of twelve etchings of Venice. He returned to London, instead, with fifty etched copper plates of views that captured the essence of the picturesque, light-filled city. This is one of Whistler’s first etchings executed in Venice. The shorthand strokes completely describe the subject, but with little detail, capturing merely the essence of the façade. This approach is a hallmark of all of Whistler’s prints from Venice and was revolutionary for the history of etching.

At the bottom of this print is a tab with Whistler’s symbol, the butterfly, drawn in graphite. Whistler trimmed his etchings by hand, choosing locations for the tabs according to compositional balance.