Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room

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Previous custodian or owner
Frederick Richards Leyland (1831 - 1892)
Mrs. James Watney I
Obach & Co. (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer (1854 - 1919)
From 1877 to 1892
Frederick Richards Leyland (1831-1892), London, from 1877 [1]
From 1892 to 1894
Estate of Frederick Richards Leyland, London, from 1892 [2]
From 1894 to 1904
Mrs. James Watney, London, purchased from the Estate of Frederick Richards Leyland in 1894 [3]
Obach & Co., London, purchased from Mrs. James Watney, through Messrs. Brown and Phillips of the Leicester Galleries, London, in 1904 [4]
From 1904 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Obach & Co. in 1904 [5]
From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [6]
[1] The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home, 49 Prince's Gate, of Frederick Richard Leyland. When Frederick Richard Leyland died in 1892, 49 Prince's Gate - and its contents - was offered for sale.
Leyland's porcelains and other treasures were sold. Whistler's painting The Princess from the Land of Porcelain (F19023.91) was removed from the Peacock Room and sold at Christie's in London on May 28, 1892, to Alexander Reid, a Glasgow dealer. The house - which still contained the Peacock Room - did not bring a high enough offer and it was withdrawn from sale. It was finally purchased in 1894 by Mrs. James (Blanche) Watney. Upon discovering that the Peacock Room could be taken apart and reassembled, Mrs. Watney decided to sell the room. In 1903, Mrs. Watney set the price at 10,000 guineas and engaged Messrs. Brown and Phillips of the Leicester Galleries in Leicester Square as agents. Unable to purchase, dismantle, and reassemble the room on their own, Ernest Brown, one of principals, enlisted the cooperation of Obach & Co., a larger gallery on New Bond Street. Although Gustave Mayer, the managing partner of Obach & Co., offered the room to Charles Lang Freer on January 26, 1904, a sale did not take place at this time, as Mrs. Watney withdrew the offer. On February 6, 1904, Mayer wrote to Freer that "the present owner, a lady of extraordinary changeableness, has changed her mind three times in ten days, completely reversing her decision in each case" (see Mayer to Freer, February 6, 1904, CLF Papers/Obach). Mrs. Watney changed her mind yet again several weeks later, and on February 17, 1904, Mayer offered the room to Freer for 8,500 guineas, including the cost of disassembly and packing for shipment to Detroit.
[2] See note 1.
[3] See note 1.
[4] See note 1. Also, the exact nature of the transactions between Mrs. Watney, Messrs. Brown and Phillips of the Leicester Galleries, and Obach & Co. is somewhat unclear. Messrs. Brown and Phillips appear to have acted simply as agents for Mrs. Watney, facilitating the sale of the Peacock Room from Mrs. Watney to Obach & Co. Obach & Co. appear to have been full owners of the Peacock Room, having purchased it from Mrs. Watney before immediately selling it to Freer.
[5] See notes 1 and 4.
[6] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Restrictions & Rights
Copyright with museum
Related Online Resources
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See more items in
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Collection
On View
Freer Gallery 12: The Peacock Room in Blue and White
Accession Number
James McNeill Whistler (1834 - 1903)
United States
American Art
United States
Oil paint and gold leaf on canvas, leather, mosaic tile, and wood
H x W x D (overall): 421.6 x 613.4 x 1026.2 cm (166 x 241 1/2 x 404 in)
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Architectural Element