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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Abernethy Round Tower

1792 - 1793

Print after: John Walker (active 1776–1802), 'from an Original Drawing by T. Girtin', etching and engraving, 'Abernethy Tower' for The Copper-Plate Magazine, vol.5, no.124, pl.247, 1 May 1802, 15 × 20 cm, 5 ⅞ × 7 ⅞ in. Reprinted in Thomas Miller, Turner and Girtin's Picturesque Views, p.160, 1854. British Museum, London (1862,0712.975).

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

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Abernethy Tower, 31 August 1792, graphite on wove paper, 22.9 × 17.8 cm, 9 × 7 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.723).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Abernethy Round Tower
1792 - 1793
Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; Scottish View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
The original known only from the print


Miller, 1854, p.164

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin showing the round tower at Abernethy, near Perth in Scotland, has not been traced and is known only from the engraving that was published by John Walker (active 1776–1802) in his Copper-Plate Magazine in 1802 (see the print after, above) (Walker, 1792–1802, vol.5). From the print it is clear that Girtin based his work on a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see the source image above), and the artist never visited the site himself. Girtin’s earliest patron made an extensive tour of the country in the late summer of 1792 and his sketch of the round tower from the north west is dated 31 August. Unusually for Girtin, the artist changed the orientation of Moore’s image, producing a view in a standard landscape format. Girtin is documented as having worked for Moore between October 1792 and February 1793 for a fee of six shillings a day, producing watercolours on paper generally measuring roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm) (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 In all Girtin painted seventy or so small watercolours after Moore’s sketches, including about thirty compositions derived from drawings made on the trip to Scotland. Whilst the majority of these were kept by the patron in portfolios, he did lend a handful of the works to publishers such as Walker for the purpose of engraving. In this case the drawing was not returned to Moore’s descendants, the patron having died in 1799.

The text that accompanies the engraving of Girtin’s lost watercolour explains the attraction of the subject for Moore. The tower is described as being ‘very ancient’, dating from the ninth or tenth centuries, and is one of only two examples of round ‘watch-towers’ erected against Viking invaders in ‘our island’, the vast majority of the others being in Ireland. The tower, which is completely detached from the church and came to serve as a belfry, measures only ‘eight feet two’ (2 m 44 cm) in its internal diameter but rises to an impressive height of ‘seventy-two feet’ (22 m). Girtin created another image of a round tower at about the same time (TG0110). Although this has been titled ‘Abernethy’ (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.137), it appears to show a different structure altogether.

1792 - 1793

An Unidentified Round Tower


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The document detailing the payments made to the young Girtin by Moore is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1792–93 – Item 1).

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