Long-Forgotten James Whistler Painting Rediscovered in Regional Dutch Museum

The painting was stowed away for twenty years.

James Whistler Symphony in White. Girl in Muslin Dress Photo: Singer museum via nos.nl
James Whistler Symphony in White. Girl in Muslin Dress Photo: Singer Museum via nos.nl

James Whistler Symphony in White. Girl in Muslin Dress
Photo: Singer Museum via nos.nl

A small Dutch museum has announced that it has discovered a long-forgotten painting by the American artist James Whistler in its archive.

The artwork titled Symphony in White. Girl in Muslin Dress was first displayed at the Singer Laren Museum in the Netherlands when it opened in 1956. But when a specialist disputed the authenticity of the unsigned canvas twenty years ago, it was stowed away in the institution’s storage facility.

Luckily, museum curator Jan Rudolph de Lorm rediscovered the work and launched an authentication investigation with the Universities of Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Glasgow.

An infrared scan of the painting helped identify the work as an authentic Whistler. Photo: AFP

An infrared scan of the painting helped identify the work as an authentic Whistler.
Photo: AFP

“I saw the picture in the depot and I just couldn’t get her stare out of my mind. A good portrait is like a meeting, and I have met this young woman,” he said, recalling the moment he rediscovered the painting.

“Thanks to chemical analysis and an examination of its origins, we have concluded that we have an authentic Whistler,” De Lorm told the AFP.

The canvas revealed traces of the chemical strontium, which was also found in another Whistler painting hanging in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

The painting was discovered in the storage facility of the small Singer Museum, in Laren central Netherlands. Photo: Singer Museum

The painting was discovered in the storage facility of the small Singer Laren Museum, in central Netherlands.
Photo: Singer Laren Museum

In addition, de Lorm explained that a canvas cleaning revealed “very recognizable Whistler brush strokes” underneath.

However, the identity of the portrait’s subject remains a mystery. The young black-haired girl depicted wearing a high-neck ruffled white dress is thought to be the daughter of an art collector.

A valuation estimated that the painting is worth ca. €500,000 ($569,300).

Last year, scholars have discovered a previously unknown portrait by Whistler beneath a landscape painting from 1862.


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