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without frame: Variations in Flesh Colour and Green - The Balcony

Variations in Flesh Colour and Green - The Balcony

Oil painting
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (United States, 1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
1864-1870; additions 1870-1879
Oil on wood panel
H x W (frame): 94.2 × 82 cm (37 1/16 × 32 5/16 in)
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
A pivotal work in Whistler's oeuvre, this painting stands between his fanciful costume works such as Caprice in Purple and Gold and the more fully realized synthesis of Japanese art evident in the Nocturnes of the 1870s. English models dressed in kimonos pose on a balcony overlooking the river Thames and the industrial neighbourhood of Battersea on the opposite shore. The factory smokestacks are veiled in atmospheric mist, and the adjacent slag heap (a monument of industrial waste) evokes images of Mount Fuji by Japanese artists Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai. Butterflies, a symbol of metamorphosis, link the foreground fantasy to the real world beyond the balcony. Beginning with this painting, Whistler signed his work with a butterfly instead of his name, thereby linking himself and Victorian London to imaginative visions of Japan.

G.G. Cavafy, purchased from the artist, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) [1]

To 1892
H. Wunderlich & Co., New York to 1892 [2]

From 1892 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from H. Wunderlich & Co. in 1892 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] See Curatorial Remarks 3 and 4, S. Hobbs, 1977, in the object record.

[2] See Original Whistler List, Etchings, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] See note 2.

[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.

Former owner
G. G. Cavafy
H. Wunderlich & Co. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919)
On View Location
Currently not on view
balcony, kimono, lute, model, ukiyo-e, United States
Collection(s) Area
American Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.