For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin after Unknown Artist, (?) Thomas Jefferys

An English Nobleman in 1559

1790 - 1791

Primary Image: TG0050: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after an Unknown Artist (?) Thomas Jefferys (1719–71), An English Nobleman in 1559, 1790–91, graphite on wove paper, 11 × 8.3 cm, 4 ⅜ × 3 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1155).

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

Artist's source: Unknown Artist, etching, hand-coloured, 'Habit of an English Nobleman in 1559' for Thomas Jefferys, A Collection of the Dresses of Different Nations, vol.2, pl.206, 1757–72, 22.3 × 19.6 cm, 8 ¾ × 7 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection Library.

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Unknown Artist, (?) Thomas Jefferys (1719-1771)
  • An English Nobleman in 1559
1790 - 1791
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
11 × 8.3 cm, 4 ⅜ × 3 ¼ in

‘English Nobelman in 155’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

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

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
80e 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.14

About this Work

An English Nobleman in 1559 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, TG0049 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.

1790 - 1791

A French Lady of Quality in 1581


1790 - 1791

Edward VI in 1550


1790 - 1791

A Noble Virgin of Bologna in 1581


1790 - 1791

A Persian Lady in 1568


1790 - 1791

Henry VIII in 1520


1798 - 1803

Berry Pomeroy Castle


1794 - 1795

A Study of a Young Girl


by Greg Smith

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.