The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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William Comer Petheram, 1835-1922

Nationality: British
Date of Birth: 1835
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1922.05.15
Place of Death:


William Comer Petheram was a barrister.


Petheram was an experienced and popular lawyer, and according to James Anderson Rose, a 'Gentleman' (#05233). Along with John Humffreys Parry, a sergeant-at-law who had been involved in a number of celebrated cases and who was well known for his theatrical style, Petheram was chosen by Rose to represent JW in 1878 at the Whistler v. Ruskin trial.

On 22 November 1878 JW arranged a dinner for Parry and Petheram in order to give them an opportunity to view the paintings that he intended to present to the court as evidence, including Nocturne in Blue and Silver (YMSM 113), Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140) and Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170). Dinner was reputedly served by bailiffs who had taken possession of the White House (#08746).

At the trial, Petheram, who made a direct examination of JW and Albert Moore, proved an able advocate.

Petheram was later knighted and appointed Chief Justice of Bengal. He was the author of The Law and Practice Relating to Discovery by Interrogatories Under the Common Law Procedures Act, 1854 (London, 1864).


Foster, Joseph, Men at the Bar: a biographical hand-list of the members of the various inns of court, including Her Majesty's judges, London, 1885; Parry, Edward Abbott, Vagabonds All, New York, 1926; Merrill, Linda, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler v. Ruskin, London, 1992.