1870. Oil on canvas. Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA. Read Note.
Frederick Leyland was a self-made Liverpool ship-owner, wealthy and influential. He generously patronized contemporary artists, including a number of Whistler’s friends, and for this earned the nickname the ‘Liverpool Medici’. Leyland was fond of collecting art and music, on his return home at night he would practice scales on the piano.
Whistler was first introduced to Leyland by Rossetti.
Since the autumn of 1869, Whistler was a regular visitor at Leyland’s manor house, Speke Hall , eight miles from Liverpool, where his interest in etching revived and he executed plates of Liverpool docks and of Leyland’s family. Full-length portraits of both husband and wife were commissioned and work continued on these in both Liverpool and London: Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland. and Symphony in Flesh Color and Pink: Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland. The good relations turned to bitter hatred over the decoration of the famous Peacock Room. Since then Whistler painted 3 pictures satirizing Leyland: The Gold Scab. The Loves of the Lobsters and Mount Ararat, have not survived.
Whistler probably intended all three paintings to be in his studio when Leyland and the creditors made an inspection of his house in 1879. The Gold Scab shows Leyland as a hideous peacock sitting on Whistler’s White House, playing the piano.
See: James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Symphony in Flesh Color and Pink: Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland. Speke Hall. Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room. The Gold Scab