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with frame: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain (La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine)

see also: 2122

The Princess from the Land of Porcelain (La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine)

Oil painting
Artist: James McNeill Whistler (United States, 1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
Oil on canvas
201.5 x 116.1 cm
United States
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
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.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's (1828-1882) studio, London [1]

Unidentified collector, purchased from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's studio [2]

From at least 1872 to 1892
Frederick R. Leyland (1831-1892), London, purchased from the estate of the unidentified collector, from at least 1872 [3]

From 1892
Alexander Reid (1854-1928), Glasgow, purchased at auction, Christie's, London, May 28, 1892, no. 39 [4]

From ca. 1894-1895 to 1903
Sir William Burrell (1861-1958), Glasgow, purchased from Alexander Reid ca. 1894-1895 [5]

From 1903 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Sir William Burrell in 1903 [6]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [7]


[1] See Curatorial Remark 5, Susan Hobbs, 1977, and Curatorial Remark 11, Lee Glazer, May 25, 2010, in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

[4] See note 1.

[5] See Original Whistler List, Paintings, page 10, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[6] Purchased by C.L. Freer on August 20, 1903, as the "The Princess of Porcelain," see notes 1 and 5.

[7] 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
Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Studio (1828 - 1882)
Frederick Richard Leyland (1831 - 1892)
Alexander Reid (1854 - 1928)
C.L. Freer source: Sir William Burrell (1861 - 1958)
On View Location
Freer: The Peacock Room Comes to America
fan, princess, United States, woman
Collection(s) Area
American Art

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

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