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Works Thomas Girtin

An Old Bridge, Possibly near Abbotsbury

(?) 1797

Primary Image: TG1243: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), An Old Bridge, Possibly near Abbotsbury, (?) 1797, graphite and watercolour on paper, 23 × 31 cm, 9 × 12 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • An Old Bridge, Possibly near Abbotsbury
(?) 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
23 × 31 cm, 9 × 12 ¼ in
Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
River Scenery; The West Country: Devon and Dorset

An Old Bridge, Possibly near Abbotsbury (TG1242)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Francis John Bramstone Beckford (b.1844); then by descent to a Lady; her sale, Sotheby’s, 12 July 1984, lot 104 as 'View of a Bridge Across a River with a Church Tower and Hills Behind', unsold; Sotheby’s, 21 November 1985, lot 114

About this Work

This is the slightly larger of two versions of a view of a bridge with an unidentified village beyond and a distant hill with what seems to be a chapel in silhouette (the other being TG1242). The distant hill bears some resemblance to Glastonbury Tor, and one possibility is that this view shows St Michael’s Tower on the hill in Somerset. It was once thought that Girtin painted two views of Glastonbury Abbey (TG1106 and TG1110) but these turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, having now been shown to depict Lindisfarne Priory church, and it now seems unlikely that the artist broke his journey on his return from the West Country in 1797 to sketch such a view. In any case, it made more sense to concentrate efforts to identify the scene on another West Country site that Girtin is definitely known to have visited in 1797, Abbotsbury in Dorset. The building on the hill indeed does look like a side-on view of the early fifteenth-century St Catherine’s Chapel, a building that can be seen in the background of Girtin’s first view of Abbotsbury (TG0146), dating from 1792–93, which was made from a sketch by the amateur artist James Moore (1762–99) (see TG0146 figure 1). However, I have not been able to locate a two-arched bridge that might fit in with the local topography and, although the view does have a pronounced West Country feel, I suspect that we will need to find a sketch inscribed with the subject in order to make any further progress. What is particularly frustrating is that this work may, as Susan Morris has suggested, be the on-the-spot sketch on which the more finished watercolour (TG1242) is based (Morris, 1986, p.42). No inscription is recorded, however, and since the work is known only as a black and white photograph, it has not been possible to confirm its status as a study coloured on the spot either.

1797 - 1798

An Old Bridge, Possibly near Abbotsbury


1797 - 1798

Lindisfarne: An Interior View of the Ruins of the Priory Church


1797 - 1798

An Exterior View of the Ruins of Lindisfarne Priory Church


1792 - 1793

The Tithe Barn at Abbotsbury, with St Catherine’s Chapel on the Hill


1797 - 1798

An Old Bridge, Possibly near Abbotsbury


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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