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Works Thomas Girtin after Marco Ricci

A Classical Composition, with Figures Admiring the Sculptures

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1464: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Marco Ricci (1676–1730), A Classical Composition, with Figures Admiring the Sculptures, 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 31.9 × 47 cm, 12 ½ × 18 ½ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1892.76).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: Davide Fossati (1708–95), after Marco Ricci (1676–1730), etching, Classical Composition for 24 Landscapes after Marco Ricci, pl.10, 1743, 24.8 × 35.8 cm, 9 ¾ × 14 ¹⁄₁₆ in. British Museum, London (1882,0311.1169).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Marco Ricci (1676-1730)
  • A Classical Composition, with Figures Admiring the Sculptures
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
31.9 × 47 cm, 12 ½ × 18 ½ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Foreign Master
Subject Terms
Classical Buildings: Imaginary

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
308 as 'Classical Composition'; '1798–9'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and February 2020


John Edward Taylor (1830–1905); presented to the Whitworth Institute, 1892

Exhibition History

Manchester, 1894, no number; London, 1923a, no.45; Arts Council, 1960, no.33; Amsterdam, 1965, no.64; Manchester, 1973, no.47; Manchester, 1975, no.53; Manchester, 1993, no.72; Oslo, 1995, no.63


Davies, 1924, p.23, pl.72 as '"Classical Composition"'; Hardie, 1934, p.5; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.68; Nicholson, 1990, pp.19–21; Nugent, 2003, p.132

About this Work

This is one of six watercolours that were painted by Girtin from etchings made after the architectural views of the Italian artist Marco Ricci (1676–1730) (see the source image above). The etchings were executed by Davide Fossati (1708–95) and published in Venice in 1743 as 24 Landscapes after Marco Ricci. The Venetian artist enjoyed considerable popularity in England following his two stays (1708–11 and 1712–16), and his Vedute – imaginary architectural views combining ruined buildings and sculptures in a generic classical, Italianate style – found a ready market, first as bodycolours and then as etchings published by Fossati and others after his death. In this example, Girtin followed Ricci’s composition particularly closely, including the same figures, who, in their studiously timeless apparel, examine the fantastical mix of sculptural elements from different periods.

All six of the copies after Ricci’s compositions were executed on similar laid paper, each measuring roughly 32 × 48 cm (12 ½ × 19 in) – that is, larger than the originals – and it is therefore tempting to characterise them in the same terms as the set of watercolours that Girtin produced after the compositions of Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820) (such as TG0888). However, although the Ricci copies are also based on prints, there is no evidence that they were produced on commission for a patron such as John Henderson (1764–1843). Indeed, appearing to date from later on stylistic grounds, say around 1800–1801, the watercolours were probably made for sale on the open market, where two of them were bought by an early collector of Girtin’s work, either Peter Bluett (1767–1863) of Holcombe Court or a relative of another owner of the property, the Revd William Rayer (1786–1866). The fact that the works were not acquired directly from the artist by a patron who had a say in their production is, I suggest, of some importance, as it significantly increases the possibility that Girtin bought the Fossati prints himself, just as he was to do with a group of French architectural views published in twelve volumes as Voyage Pittoresque de la France (La Borde and others, 1781–1800). Moreover, he did so with the intention of making saleable commodities, and there is certainly no question of his having produced the copies for his own study. This watercolour has faded somewhat, making precise dating difficult, but there is something in the rather stiff drawing and the less than subtle colouring that recalls later copies of French subjects such as Lyons Cathedral (TG1907), which appears to postdate the artist’s return from Paris in 1802. Though perhaps not from 1802, the Ricci-inspired watercolours certainly feel later than the 1797–98 proposed by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.176).

1799 - 1800

Rome: The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina


(?) 1802

Lyon Cathedral


by Greg Smith

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