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James Abbott McNeill Whistler. 1834-1903.

The Little Hat. 1887. Etching with touches of drypoint . Kennedy 335; Glasgow 366. 4 1/8 x 2 5/8. Printed in brownish ink on laid paper. Eight or nine impressions are known. This impression was unknown to Glasgow, and would be a 9th or 10th impression. Aside from this impression, only one might still be in private hands, as all other known impressions are in museum collections. Monogrammed in the plate, center right. Bearing a penciled circle in the margin at the bottom, indicating a selected proof. Housed in a Whistler-style champagne gold frame. Price upon request.

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The Little Hat was not published. The sitter is possibly Helen Lenoir (1852-1913), who was etched in The Fur Tippet: Miss Lenoir (Glasgow 365), wearing furs and another hat with an extremely raked brim and tower of feathers.

This is one of several etchings where dress and fashion - or a fashion accessory - is specified as the subject although it is also clearly a portrait: see for instance, The Fur Cloak - Mrs. Herbert (Glasgow 367), The Busby (Glasgow 368), The Little Cloak Glasgow 370), The Japanese Dress (371), and The Fan (Glasgow 375).

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Helen Lenoir, née Helen Coupar Black, later Mrs. D'Oyly Carte, actress, stage-manager, and business woman. She was daughter of the Procurator-Fiscal of Wigtonshire. Her first husband died in 1885. She married Richard D'Oyly Carte (1844-1901), impresario and property developer, on 12 April 1888. After Carte's death in 1901, she married, for a third time, Stanley Boulter, a barrister in 1906.

LHelen Lenoir studied mathematics, logic and moral philosophy at London University 1871-4 (at that date no degrees could be awarded to women). She also spoke several languages and taught mathematics. Her acting career was brief and she became secretary to Richard D'Oyly Carte in 1877. From then on she made fifteen visits to the United States in order to promote D'Oyly Carte's interests. In 1886, he offered her a salary of £1,000 and 10% commission on all business at his theatres. When they were married two years later, the composer Arthur Sullivan was the best man. After Carte's death in 1901, she ran the Savoy Theatre until 1909, and the D'Oyly Carte Touring Company Ltd until her death in 1913.

Bibliography: Wilson, Robin J., Gilbert & Sullivan: the D'Oyly Carte Years, London 1984; Sadie, Stanley (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, New York, 1992.

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The plate was in Whistler's studio at his death and was bequeathed to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), who gave it to the University of Glasgow in 1935. The plate was cancelled posthumously, with a diagonal line from above centre on the left edge to above the lower right corner.

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