Purple and Gold: Phryne the Superb!– Builder of Temples

Maker(s)
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
1898
Medium
Oil on wood panel
Dimensions
H x W (a): 24.2 x 14.2 cm (9 1/2 x 5 9/16 in)
Geography
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1902.115a-b
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Oil painting

Keywords
United States, woman
Provenance

From 1902 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from the artist in 1902 [1]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [2]

Notes:

[1] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, pg. 4, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Mr. Freer selected this painting in Mr. Whistler's Paris Studio in 1900, and purchased in 1902 (for further detail, see Curatorial Remark 5, David Park Curry, 1984, in the object record).

[2] 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.

Previous Owner(s)

James McNeill Whistler (C.L. Freer source) 1834-1903
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919

Label

As recorded by several Greek commentators, Phryne was both a rich woman--a "Builder of Temples"--and an artist's model. Indeed, she was the archetypal female model: the woman who posed for the first monumental female nude in the history of Western art, the Aphrodite of Cnidus by the Greek sculptor Praxiteles. Praxiteles obscured the identity of his model (and mistress) by representing her as a goddess. Whistler brings the history of the female nude full circle by undoing this mystification. Ignoring the idealized marble goddess within the temple, he gives us the flesh-and-blood model in the artist's studio.

Published References
  • Denys Sutton. James McNeill Whistler: Paintings, Etchings, Pastels & Watercolours. London, 1966. pl. 115.
  • Denys Sutton. Nocturne: The Art of James McNeill Whistler. Philadelphia and New York, 1964. fig. 54.
  • Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. Studies in British Art 2 vols. New Haven, 1980. pl. 316.
  • Grace Dunham Guest. Whistler: The Artist and the Man. Smithsonian Institution Radio Program, vol. 10, no. 3 New York. p. 13.
  • James McNeill Whistler in Context: Essays from the Whistler Centenary Symposium, University of Glasgow, 2003. vol. 2, , 1st edition. Washington, 2008. p. 22, fig. 2.2.
  • With Kindest Regards: The Correspondence of Charles Lang Freer and James McNeill Whistler 1890-1903. Washington. p. 29, fig. 9.
  • David Park Curry. James McNeill Whistler at the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1984. pp. 50, 153, pl. 62.
  • Thomas Lawton Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 50, fig. 35.
  • Susan Hobbs. A Connoisseur's Vision of America: The American Collection of Charles Lang Freer., August 1977. p. 96.
  • Elizabeth Robins Pennell Joseph Pennell. The Whistler Journal. Philadelphia, 1921. p. 218.
  • Elisabeth Luther Cary. The Works of James McNeill Whistler: A Study., First edition. New York, 1907. cat. 491, p. 228.
Collection Area(s)
American Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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