The Princess from the Land of Porcelain, Whistler Mug
The Princess from the Land of Porcelain (La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine) Whistler's painting of Christine Spartali, a noted beauty of the 1860s is another in his series of clearly Western compositions that depict languid young women amid Oriental props. Later writers saw parallels between this work and Japanese images, such as woodblock prints by Utamaro, but the painting is just as firmly based upon 18th-century French chinoiserie. The Princesse is one of several early works for which preparatory sketches are known to have been used. One surviving sketch shows the artist blocking in the general composition and colors, but leaving out details of rug, screen and costume that were added to the final work. The spray of flowers at the left of the oil sketch were later eliminated. Whistler's decision isolated Miss Spartali's profile and increased the impact of her exotic visage. However, her father refused to purchase the work as a portrait of his daughter. Whistler was not willing to reduce the size of his signature for another potential purchaser, and the Pennells believed that this incident caused him to develop his butterfly cypher. However, the butterfly did not actually appear until several years later. James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) was an American-born, British-based artist. Averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, he was a leading proponent of the credo "art for art's sake". His famous signature for his paintings was in the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The symbol was apt, for it combined both aspects of his personality, his art was characterized by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative. Finding a parallel between painting and music, Whistler titled many of his paintings "arrangements", "harmonies", and "nocturnes", emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony. His most famous painting is the iconic Whistler's Mother (1871), the revered and oft parodied portrait of motherhood. A wit, dandy, and shameless self-promoter, Whistler influenced the art world and the broader culture of his time with his artistic theories and his friendships with leading artists and writers.