Eleanore ('Nora') Ruth MacNay was the daughter of Mary Isabella (née Cooke) and Thomas Fothergill MacNay, a civil engineer.
The MacNays were friends of C. A. Howell and JW in the 1880s. Whistler made a couple of sketches at the family home at Upper Grove, South Norwood in 1882 that show either Nora or her mother reclining on a sofa, Mrs or Miss McNay (M.868) and La Dormeuse (M.869). JW, who was in correspondence with Nora in 1885, referred to her affectionately at this time as 'My dear lili Nora' (#04238). However, Nora died prematurely in January 1886 at the age of eighteen. JW wrote to Mrs MacNay on 20 February 1886 to express 'how sad we all have been about dear little Nora' whom he called a 'pretty child' (#08100). He painted a portrait of Nora for the family using an old sketch, Portrait of Miss Nora McNay (YMSM 348).
Information from family descendants; UK census 1881 from http://www.familysearch.org (accessed 2004); Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.