Bibi Lalouette

James McNeill Whistler American

Not on view

This curly-haired little boy sitting on the edge of a bed comes from a series of portraits that Whistler made in 1858-59. Known by the pet name of Bibi, the child was son to J. M. Lalouette who ran a small hotel and restaurant at 5 rue de l'Odéon in Paris. Whistler often ate there and left a large unpaid bill when he moved to London. In August 1860 he sent partial payment, eliciting a relieved response from Monsieur Lalouette that mentions Bibi often talked of the artist, and noting the family's pride in their own impression of the present work. As in portrayals of his Haden nephews and niece, Whistler focused on his subject's features and barely indicated setting. A black cap resting on the counterpane functions as a visual punctuation point to balance the child's head. Ghostly forms below indicate that an earlier image was burnished away. It is not certain when a hooked scratch across the sleeve in this impression was added to the plate, perhaps by Whistler as a cancellation mark, but it was present by 1883 when William Loring Andrews gave the Museum a print where it appears (83.1.23).

Bibi Lalouette, James McNeill Whistler (American, Lowell, Massachusetts 1834–1903 London), Etching and drypoint, black ink on fine ivory laid Japan; second state of two, with the scratch  (Glasgow)

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