Soupe à Trois Sous (Soup for Three Cents)

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American (active in England), 1834–1903)

Catalogue Raisonné

Kennedy 049, only state; Mansfield 49


Platemark: 15.2 x 22.7 cm (6 x 8 15/16 in.) Sheet: 19.5 x 31.5 cm (7 11/16 x 12 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Etching on blue paper

Not On View


Americas, Prints and Drawings



Figure at left is self portrait.

American born James Abbot McNeill Whistler lived in England but traveled frequently to the continent (especially France, Italy, the Netherlands) for artistic inspiration from friends (Legros and Courbet in France) and from landscape and cityscape. In Soupe à Trois Sous (Soup for Three Cents), Whistler, a known flaneur, inserts himself into a lowly French café inhabited by laborers. The etching was executed in 1859, at the time he was working on the Thames set, a series of prints depicting working class life along the Thames, and possesses subject matter, mood, and spatial treatment comparable to the English prints.

This impression is printed on blue laid paper. According to the prominent Scottish Whistler print scholar, Margaret MacDonald, this may be a unique use of such paper for this print. The paper color and dark brown ink used for this strong impression with plate tone contribute to the bleak moodiness of the subject. The composition, a study in contrasting and shifting shapes and lines, anticipates similar haunted café scenes by Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Picasso.


In plate, center: Whistler; Verso: iin graphite, l.l.: EW; l.r.: a 97934 (Kennedy Gallery no.)




Kennedy Galleries, NY; Holman Print Shop, Boston; from whom purchased by Stephanie Loeb (Stepanek), 1969; her gift to MFA December 29, 2006

Credit Line

Gift of Stephanie Loeb Stepanek in memory of Frank Dolloff