The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Peacock Room
Record 23 of 79

System Number: 02570
Date: 21 October 1876
Author: Frederick Richards Leyland[1]
Place: Liverpool
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler L106
Document Type: ALS

'No. 1[2]'


21 Oct 1876

Dear Whistler,

I have just received your telegram[3]; but I think it will be more satisfactory now that the work[4] is finished if we settle the amount you are entitled to charge.

I can only repeat what I told you the other day that I cannot consent to the amount you spoke of - £2000. - and I do not think you should have involved me in such a large expenditure without [p. 2] previously telling me of it. The peacocks you have put on the back of the shutters[5] may possibly be worth (as pictures) the £1200 you charge for them but that position is clearly a most inappropriate one for such an expensive piece of decoration; and you certainly were not justified in placing them there without any order from me. I certainly do not require them and I can only suggest that you take them away and let [p. 3] new shutters be put up in their place.

As to the decorations to the ceiling[6] and the flowers on the old leather[7], as well as the other work[8] about the house; it seems to me the only way of arriving at a fair charge is to take the time occupied at your average rate of earnings as an artist.

I am sorry there should be such an unpleasant correspondence[9] between us; but I do think you are to blame for not letting me know before developing into an elaborate [p. 4] scheme of decoration what was intended to be a very slight affair and the work of comparatively a few days

Yours truly

Fred. R. Leyland

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Frederick Richards Leyland
Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more].

2.  'No. 1'
Written in hand of JW, in top left-hand corner of sheet in pencil. He seems to have numbered his correspondence with Leyland concerning Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178) with a view to publication (although this did not take place).

3.  telegram
Untraced. However, a draft telegram, JW to F. R. Leyland, #02571 is probably a reply to this letter.

4.  work
The dining room at 49, Prince's Gate, Leyland's London home. JW had been working through the summer months on a decorative scheme for the room (Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178)).

5.  shutters
JW created richly detailed peacock design on the three window shutters of the room. On each of the outer two was a single peacock, its feathers fanned wide and on the centre panel a pair of peacocks, their feathers arranged in an elaborate train behind them. See Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998, pp. 218-21 for for a more detailed discussion.

6.  ceiling
JW painted an elaborate circular pattern of overlapping feathers on the ceiling of the room (op. cit., pp. 216-17).

7.  old leather
The antique leather wall-hangings installed by Leyland in the dining room. The reference to the flowers relates to La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (YMSM 50) which hung at one end of the room. JW retouched the original pattern of red flowers on the leather with yellow as it supposedly spoilt the harmony of the setting for the painting. See also op. cit., pp. 191-95..

8.  other work
A reference to JW's decorative work earlier in the year on the hall staircase at Prince's Gate. See Panels from the Entrance Hall at 49 Princes Gate (YMSM 175).

9.  correspondence
See correspondence between JW and F. R. Leyland between August and October 1876, #08791, #02569, #08054, #08058, #08063, #08796, #08787, #08790.