UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Christine Spartali, 1845?-1884

Nationality: British
Date of Birth: 1845?
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1884
Place of Death:

Identity:

Christine Spartali (later the Countess Edmond de Cahen), was the daughter of Michael Spartali, who was later the Greek Consul General in London. Her sister Marie became Mrs W. J. Stillman.

Life:

Christine Spartali was the model for La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (YMSM 50). She posed to Whistler twice a week in the winter of 1863-64 and she suggested to her father, Michael Spartali, that he should buy the picture, but he objected to it as a portrait

The sitter's sister Marie told Pennell: 'At first the work went quickly, but soon it began to drag. Whistler often scraped down the figure just as they thought it all but finished, and day after day they returned to find that everything was to be done over again ... Mrs. Stillman remembers that Whistler partly closed the shutters so as to shut out the direct light; that her sister stood at one end of the room, the canvas beside her; that Whistler would look at the picture from a distance, then suddenly dash at it, give one stroke, then dash away again ... The sittings went on until the sitter fell ill ... The head in the "Princess" gave him most trouble ... During her illness, a model stood for the gown, and when she was getting better, he came one day and made a pencil drawing of her head, though where it went to Mrs. Stillman never knew. There were a few more sittings after this, and at last the picture was finished.'

Bibliography:

Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, pp. 122-25, 130, 157, 203-04; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.