Artist: James McNeill Whistler, United States, 1834-1903
Oil paint and gold leaf on canvas, leather, mosaic tile, and wood
H x W x D (overall): 421.6 x 613.4 x 1026.2 cm (166 x 241 1/2 x 404 in)
peacock, gold, United States, American Art
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer: The Peacock Room Comes to America
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
From 1877 to 1892 Frederick Richards Leyland (1831-1892), London, from 1877  From 1892 to 1894 Estate of Frederick Richards Leyland, London, from 1892  From 1894 to 1904 Mrs. James Watney (Blanche Marie Georgiana Burrell Watney), London, purchased from the Estate of Frederick Richards Leyland in 1894  1904 Obach & Co., London, purchased from Mrs. James Watney, through Messrs. Brown and Phillips of the Leicester Galleries, London, in 1904  From 1904 to 1919 Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Obach & Co. in 1904  From 1920 Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920  Notes:  The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home, 49 Prince's Gate, of Frederick Richard Leyland. When Frederick Richard Leyland died in 1892, 49 Prince's Gate - and its contents - was offered for sale. Leyland's porcelains and other treasures were sold. Whistler's painting The Princess from the Land of Porcelain (F19023.91) was removed from the Peacock Room and sold at Christie's in London on May 28, 1892, to Alexander Reid, a Glasgow dealer. The house - which still contained the Peacock Room - did not bring a high enough offer and it was withdrawn from sale. It was finally purchased in 1894 by Mrs. James (Blanche) Watney. Upon discovering that the Peacock Room could be taken apart and reassembled, Mrs. Watney decided to sell the room. In 1903, Mrs. Watney set the price at 10,000 guineas and engaged Messrs. Brown and Phillips of the Leicester Galleries in Leicester Square as agents. Unable to purchase, dismantle, and reassemble the room on their own, Ernest Brown, one of principals, enlisted the cooperation of Obach & Co., a larger gallery on New Bond Street. Although Gustave Mayer, the managing partner of Obach & Co., offered the room to Charles Lang Freer on January 26, 1904, a sale did not take place at this time, as Mrs. Watney withdrew the offer. On February 6, 1904, Mayer wrote to Freer that "the present owner, a lady of extraordinary changeableness, has changed her mind three times in ten days, completely reversing her decision in each case" (see Mayer to Freer, February 6, 1904, CLF Papers/Obach). Mrs. Watney changed her mind yet again several weeks later, and on February 17, 1904, Mayer offered the room to Freer for 8,500 guineas, including the cost of disassembly and packing for shipment to Detroit.  See note 1.  See note 1.  See note 1. Also, the exact nature of the transactions between Mrs. Watney, Messrs. Brown and Phillips of the Leicester Galleries, and Obach & Co. is somewhat unclear. Messrs. Brown and Phillips appear to have acted simply as agents for Mrs. Watney, facilitating the sale of the Peacock Room from Mrs. Watney to Obach & Co. Obach & Co. appear to have been full owners of the Peacock Room, having purchased it from Mrs. Watney before immediately selling it to Freer.  See notes 1 and 4.  The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.
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Please note: The Freer Gallery of Art will be closed to the public from January 2016 until summer 2017. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Library, and Archives will remain open for the duration of the renovation. Learn more »