Sir John Lavery, who knew James Abbott McNeill Whistler well said that Giovanni Boldini's portrait of him was a speaking likeness.
But Whistler didn't think so. He said: "Well, they tell me it is very like me, but, thank God, I am not like it."
Lavery painted a word portrait of Whistler:
"When he got in front of the [mirror] to brush his hair he behaved exactly like a woman settling her permanent wave, placing individual locks, moistened to keep their form, in their allotted places so that they did not interfere with the gray wisp of which he was so proud that stood out of the damp shiny curls on his forehead. His eyebrows were thick and black, his eyes sharp as needles, while a sensitive nose and mouth with prominent chin made up his features."
"He had beautiful hands, though somewhat claw-like, especially when he would clutch one by the arm to drive home a point. A low, turn-down collar with a narrow black-ribbon bow adorned his wrinkled neck, and his general appearance was that of a small alert ringmaster, whip in hand. I can never remember seeing him, even in the country, in anything other than what are known as court slippers, causing him to be very careful where he stepped out of doors."
From The Life of a Painter by John Lavery
The painting is in the Brooklyn Museum, but is not currently on view. Artist: Giovanni Boldini, Italian, 1842-1931 Oil on canvas, 1897, 67 1/4 x 37 1/4 in.