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Works Thomas Girtin after Unknown Artist, Thomas Jefferys

A Persian Lady in 1568

1790 - 1791

Primary Image: TG0049: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after an Unknown Artist (?) Thomas Jefferys (1719–71), A Persian Lady in 1568, 1790–91, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 11.1 × 7.6 cm, 4 ⅜ × 3 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1150).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Artist's source: Unknown Artist, etching, 'Habit of a Persian Lady in 1568' for Thomas Jefferys, A Collection of the Dresses of Different Nations, vol.1, pl.83, 1757–72, 26 × 20 cm, 10 ¼ × 7 ⅞ in. British Museum, London (1871,0812.4971).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Unknown Artist, Thomas Jefferys (1719-1771)
  • A Persian Lady in 1568
1790 - 1791
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
11.1 × 7.6 cm, 4 ⅜ × 3 in

‘Persian Lady / 1568’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Figure Study

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
80a as '1793–5'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.18

About this Work

A Persian Lady in 1568 is one six costume studies that the young Girtin copied from Thomas Jefferys’ four-volume Collection of the Dresses of Different Nations, Antient and Modern (see the source image above), which was published between 1757 and 1772 (TG0046, TG0047, TG0048, TG0050 and TG0051). The images in Jefferys’ volumes were made after ‘the Designs of Holbein, Vandyke, Hollar, and Others’, according to its subtitle, and were a popular source for history painters seeking accurate costumes for their compositions (Jefferys, 1757–72). Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak dated the six drawings to 1793–95 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.144), but the hard, inflexible outlines and the crude handling of the monochrome washes suggest an earlier date, at a time when Girtin was still an apprentice to Edward Dayes (1763–1804). They would therefore have been set as copying exercises by a teacher who wanted to pass on his ambitions as a history painter to his apprentice. That said, Jefferys’ volumes are not listed in a catalogue of books in Dayes’ possession in 1800, but they may have been available to the young Girtin in the form of single sheets (Lightbown, 1971, appendix).

None of the costume studies are signed and the pencil work does not display any of the characteristic elements of the artist’s drawing style, which, in any case, was based on the need to record landscape and architectural details. The attribution of the drawings is therefore dependent on their provenance and the family tradition that they came from Girtin’s studio after his death and thereafter passed on by descent. Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74) did inherit a number of works by his father, but he also bought others, some of which have proved not to be by Girtin (such as TG1271), so it is surely right to add a note of caution in this case too. However, Girtin’s later figure studies also deploy a quite different graphic language to his landscape drawings (TG1515) and, on balance, the attribution of this and the other five costume studies remains tenable.

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by Greg Smith

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