James Whistler Ink Drawing, ca. 1851

Value (2012) | $10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
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GUEST:
He was my grandfather's godfather, and he gave this book to my grandfather. And he had it his whole life and then gave it to my uncle.

APPRAISER:
And what's between the covers? Can we open it up and we'll see what's in there?

GUEST:
Sure.

APPRAISER:
There's a little inscription there.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
There's bits falling out. It's in a very precarious state.

GUEST:
It is.

APPRAISER:
Now this little drawing here.

GUEST:
Yes!

APPRAISER:
And lo and behold, signed down here, "J. Whistler."

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

GUEST:
Correct.

APPRAISER:
One of the greats of American art.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And quite a long way from the famous butterfly monogram that he created later on in his career.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Very simply signed "J. Whistler." And what do you know about Whistler's relationship with West Point?

GUEST:
Well, I know he was a student there. I believe his father taught there or was a cadet there too. Robert Thomas just was in his class, I'm guessing, because this is dated 1851 and Robert Thomas graduated in 1852.

APPRAISER:
You're quite correct. His father, as I understand actually, studied there and was an engineer there, which in fact led to him going to Russia, where Whistler spent part of his youth...

GUEST:
Oh, wow.

APPRAISER:
...when his father was helping to build the Moscow to St. Petersburg railway. Now, his father subsequently died of cholera, and the family moved back to the United States. And Whistler's mother had wanted him to become a minister. I don't think he proved to be minister material, and so he went to West Point. He proved not really to be West Point material either. But West Point's loss was the art world's gain, and off he went to Paris. But this is a very early work by him, well before he was involved in the aesthetic movement, well before famous "Whistler's Mother."

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
But here, we see him in his college book, effectively. And he was known to do these little drawings for his friends. And this one, in fact, is called-- I won't subject you to my appalling French-- but in English it's "The Elopement."

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISERS: And we can see the young lovers creeping out the back door here to start their life anew. Well, at auction-- because it's an early piece, it's atypical-- I would feel pretty comfortable estimating it at $10,000 to $15,000.

GUEST:
Wow, that's fantastic.

APPRAISERS: Although there are other drawings in here, and some of them are interesting or quite quirky, they are more of interest than of value.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
So they don't add to the inherent value of the book.

GUEST:
Thank you.

APPRAISER:
I think that's the earliest work I've ever seen by Whistler.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Freeman's Auctioneers
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2012)
$10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
Event
Myrtle Beach, SC (June 23, 2012)
Period
19th Century
Form
Drawing
Material
Ink, Paper

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