The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Sybil Frances Eden, 1867-1945

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1867
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1945.06.17
Place of Death:


Lady Sibyll Frances Eden, née Grey, was the daughter of Sir William Grey, who had been Lieutenant Governor of Bengal and Governor of Jamaica. In 1886 she married Sir William Eden, a landowner, huntsman, traveller, collector and amateur painter, the second son of the sixth Baronet, who had succeeded his father in 1873. He lived at Windlestone, Ferry Hill, County Durham. Their daughter, Elfrida Marjorie Eden (1887-1943), married Guy, Lord Brooke in 1909 and became Countess of Warwick in 1924.


In 1892 William Eden expressed the wish to have JW paint a portrait of his wife. Lady Eden first sat to JW in his studio on the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs on 9 January 1894 and JW claimed that his full length portrait, Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408), was 'all but finished' on 14 February 1894 when Eden sent him a cheque for 100 guineas. However, JW kept hold of the portrait and on 8 November 1894 Eden began legal proceedings against JW. JW returned £105 and scraped out the head so that the painting would be all but worthless if he lost his case. He replaced Lady Eden's head with a portrait of Mrs Herbert Dudley Hale, an American. JW lost the initial case, but, believing that as an artist he had the right to withhold any work with which he was not entirely happy, he appealed in the courts on 15 December 1897 and the decision was reversed and he was allowed to keep the picture, on the proviso that it was made irrecognisable.


Whistler, James McNeill, Eden versus Whistler: The Baronet and the Butterfly. A Valentine with a Verdict, Paris and New York, 1899 [GM, A.24]; Eden, Sir Timothy Calvert, The Tribulation of a Baronet, London, 1933; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.