Soupe à trois sous (Soup for three cents) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Soupe à trois sous (Soup for three cents) by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Soupe à trois sous (Soup for three cents)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

Please call us at 707-546-7352 or email to purchase this item.

Soupe à trois sous (Soup for three cents)

Image Size
5 15/16 x 8 15/16" platemark 
signed in plate, upper center image 
Edition Size
there are 56 known impressions 
Glasgow 64; Kennedy 49; M.49; T.25; W.27 
cream antique laid Japon paper 
only state 
Inventory ID

This impression was purchased from Associated American Artists in the 1960's and has a Sylvan Cole signed "Certificate of Authenticity" which is of little help, except as provenance.

From the catalogue raisonne: "Whistler's first title, 'Café des Pieds Monilles' implies a particular café, but this title seems to have been immediately rejected in favour of the more familiar 'Soupe à trois sous'. 'Café des Pieds Monilles' is almost certainly a garbled reference to the Parisian Café des Pieds-Humides ('Café of the Wet Feet').It is one of Whistler's first drypoints, done after his return to Paris in October of 1959.

'Soupe à trois sous' is French for 'Soup for three sous', which was very cheap soup, and implies that the restaurant was a very basic café/bar.

Five men are seated at wooden tables in a cheap restaurant at night. In the left foreground, behind a table, sits a man with dark curly hair, moustache and small pointed beard, facing the viewer. On the table are two plates on a tray, an empty glass and a fork. Behind him, to his right, a man wearing a cap and a cape bends over a table on which are a black bottle at left and a carafe at right; opposite him, a man with his hat drawn over his eyes and head bent forward sits cross-legged on a chair, sleeping. At the table on the right, a man wearing a dark cap or bonnet sits resting his head on his hands, with a glass and carafe in front of him. Opposite him, facing left, a dark man with a beard wearing a hat is eating from a plate and bowl, with a knife, fork and spoon beside him, and a black wine-bottle behind him. Gas is burning from a fixture in the ceiling. At left is a dark door and above it, a skylight.

According to Pennell 'At the house near the Rue Dauphine he etched Bibi Lalouette; his Soupe à Trois Sous was done in a cabaret kept by Henri Martin, whose portrait is in the print and who was famous in the Quartier for having won the Cross of the Legion of Honour by his bravery at an earlier age than any man ever decorated, and then promptly losing it by some shameful deed.' In the Whistler Journal, the Pennells, having consulted Théodore Duret (1838-1927), added:

'Henri Martin, he [Duret] thinks, must be the son of the historian, who did a little painting. The man in Soupe à Trois Sous was another Martin, a soldier, given the cross of the Legion of Honour at sixteen for bravery in 1848. He planted a flag on the top of a barricade. He was the youngest man who ever received the Cross. Afterwards it was taken from him for misconduct."

Katherine Lochnan writes: "The low-life subject, naïve drawing, and construction of the picture space recall the Thames etching Longshoremen ... A sinister element is injected into the sordid surroundings by the black bottles at the elbows of the men who sleep seated or sprawling across the tables. They recall the prominently placed bottle in Edouard Manet's painting The Absinthe Drinker, refused at the Salon of 1859, which Whistler would have known."

Please call us at 707-546-7352 or email to purchase this item.