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Works Thomas Girtin

An Exterior View of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG1381: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), An Exterior View of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace, 1794–95, graphite on wove paper, 31.1 × 27.4 cm, 12 ¼ × 10 ¾ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (E.625-1953).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • An Exterior View of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
31.1 × 27.4 cm, 12 ¼ × 10 ¾ in

‘King John’s Palace, Eltham’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin; 'T. Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Domestic Buildings; London and Environs

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
137 as 'KIng John's Palace, Eltham, Kent'; '1795–6'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


John Hayes; his sale, Sotheby’s, 30 May 1820, possibly lot 116; ... Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 16 May 1881, lot 390 as 'King John's Palace, Eltham' (one of four pencil drawings); bought by 'Palser', £2 5s; J. Palser & Sons; Edward Cohen (1817–86); then by bequest to his niece, Isabella Oswald (1838–1905); her posthumous sale, Robins & Hine, 30 March 1905, lot unknown; Sir Edward Marsh (1872–1953); bequeathed through the National Art-Collections Fund (The Art Fund), 1953

Exhibition History

London, 1981, no.30; New York, 1984, no.18


V&A, 1953; Owens, 2013, pp.77–78

About this Work

This pencil sketch of the west end of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace, south London, shows its fine oriel windows, with gargoyles above, surmounting a set of doors thrown open to signal its contemporary use as a barn. The hall, with its magnificent hammerbeam roof, was constructed between 1475 and 1479 as part of a royal palace that for over three hundred years provided luxurious accommodation for successive monarchs. The palace was abandoned and largely demolished in the seventeenth century, however, and the hall was used at the time of Girtin’s visit by a local farmer, hence the requirement for wide doors to allow access for carts. The magnificent structure, made all the more picturesque by the contrast of its modern use, also attracted the attention of Girtin’s contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), who recognised a subject that had a particular attraction for patrons interested in preserving the nation’s antiquities.

The Great Hall, seen both from a distance, as in Turner’s early view exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1791 (Shanes, 2016a, p.37), and from inside (TG1383) made for an impressive sight. However, Girtin’s oblique view, taken from close to the barn doors, offers a different approach to a subject that had already been depicted many times when he made this drawing in around 1795. The approximate date can be confirmed by a comparison with a pencil sketch of the ruins of the Savoy (TG0331), which employs a similar oblique view and uses the same graphic vocabulary to record enough of the architectural details to later fashion a convincing watercolour. In this case Girtin’s viewpoint was perhaps too unconventional as no finished watercolour is known to have been produced from the drawing. The fold in the paper to the left of the drawing might be significant, however, as the artist sometimes used this as a way of examining the feasibility of an alternative composition, as with The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins (TG1228).

1796 - 1797

The Interior of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace


1795 - 1796

An Exterior View of Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital


(?) 1796

The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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