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Works Thomas Girtin

An Interior View of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0240: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), An Interior View of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital, 1795–96, graphite on wove paper (with a fold c.3.2 cm from the bottom), 21.9 × 30 cm, 8 ⅝ × 11 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.9729).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • An Interior View of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper (with a fold c.3.2 cm from the bottom)
21.9 × 30 cm, 8 ⅝ × 11 ¾ in

‘Savoy’ lower right, not in Thomas Girtin's hand

Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
London and Environs; Urban Ruins

An Interior View of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital (TG0348)
An Interior View of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital (TG0369)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Harrods Department Store; bought from them by Leonard Gordon Duke (1890–1971), 25 October 1956, as 'attributed to' Joseph Mallord William Turner, £4 10s; P & D Colnaghi & Co.; bought from them by Paul Mellon (1907–99), £75; presented to the Center, 1977

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.30


Morris, 1986, p.14; YCBA Online as 'Ruins of Savoy Palace' (Accessed 13/09/2022)

About this Work

Some Account of London

Girtin produced as many as ten views of the ruins in the precincts of the Savoy on a site adjacent to Somerset House that stretched uphill from the north bank of the Thames to the Strand. The three different compositions developed by Girtin have generally been described as showing the ruins of the Savoy Palace, but the medieval palace was actually rebuilt as a hospital for the poor after being substantially damaged during the Peasants’ Revolt (1381), and the great dormitories of the Savoy Hospital, built in the shape of a large basilica, were constructed between 1510 and 1515 to accommodate a hundred beds (see figure 2). By the early seventeenth century, however, the Hospital had been taken over, first for the treatment of injured soldiers and then as a barracks, before a fire in 1776 reduced much of the structure to ruins, though some of the ancillary buildings, including the Savoy Chapel and the prison, remained intact. Fortunately, the Hospital was well documented, both prior to and following the fire, and we are now therefore in a position to locate each of Girtin’s views with some precision.

George Vertue (1684–1756), etching and engraving, 'A View of the Savoy from the River Thames' for <i>Vetusta Monumenta</i>, vol.2, 1736, 30.7 × 45 cm, 12 ⅛ × 17 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1978,U.3604).

Girtin’s pencil study was made from a low viewpoint in the northern transept of the ruined hospital dormitory looking to the north, with the modern buildings of the Strand appearing behind the blocked-up late Gothic window. Girtin’s point of view can be more readily appreciated from John Carter’s (1748–1817) etching (see figure 1), which was taken from further back and therefore allows us to see the crossing of the church-like structure and relate it to a reconstruction of the overall view of the Savoy complex (see figure 2). Girtin’s decision to close in on a relatively small part of the building allowed him to concentrate attention on the detail of the brick and masonry forms, which he rendered with an attractive range of inventive marks and subtle variations in the strength of his lines. Therefore, quite aside from its role as a model for a studio watercolour (TG0348), the pencil drawing, which is much the same size, affords just as much aesthetic interest as the finished work. The artist did not need to make such a large drawing and include so many lovingly rendered details to produce that watercolour, and the sheet has the appearance of being a presentation work, executed as a demonstration of the artist’s skill as a draughtsman. The watercolour itself was commissioned by James Moore (1762–99) and it is possible that the drawing was made for him as well.

1795 - 1796

An Interior View of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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