James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) was an American- British-based painter, etcher & lithographer. His famous signature (which is on this piece) was in the shape of a stylized butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail.
St. James Street, London is a view looking down the street in London, with St James Palace at the bottom of the street. The buildings down the whole length of the street on the right are included, but the left side of the street is only shown from the middle distance. The street is full of pedestrians and horse-drawn cabs, and, at front left, a policeman. It is a sunny day, with the buildings on the left casting shadows across the street.
Since Whistler worked directly on the copper plate, St James Street as printed showed the actual view in reverse. The image was reversed in the reproduction in Vanity Fair so that it looked exactly like the scene. The view is St James Street, London, seen from the terrace of what was then the Albemarle Hotel, with St James Palace at the bottom of the street. The street is one of the main streets in the district of St James. It was very much a male preserve, and contained several famous gentlemen clubs, such as Brooks, the Carlton Club and Whites.
Regarding condition, this piece looks to be in reasonable condition; there are no rips or tears or marks. It's in a very old frame, so I am sure the backing does not meet today's standards and that it could use a good cleaning. I have not inspected the piece outside of the frame.