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Works Thomas Girtin after Marco Ricci

Ancient Ruins, with a Gothic Church

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG0882: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Marco Ricci (1676–1730), Ancient Ruins, with a Gothic Church, 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 30.4 × 45.8 cm, 12 × 17 ¾ in. National Galleries of Scotland (D 5023.22).

Photo courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Artist's source: Davide Fossati (1708–95), after Marco Ricci (1676–1730), etching, Ancient Ruins with a Gothic Church for 24 Landscapes after Marco Ricci, pl.4, 1743, 25 × 35.8 cm, 9 ⅞ × 14 ⅛ in. British Museum, London (1880,0612.378).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Marco Ricci (1676-1730)
  • Ancient Ruins, with a Gothic Church
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
30.4 × 45.8 cm, 12 × 17 ¾ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Foreign Master
Subject Terms
Classical Buildings: Imaginary

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
306 as 'Classical Composition'; '1798–9'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and June 2018


Edward Cohen (1817–86); then by bequest to his niece, Annie Sophia Poulter (c.1846–1924); then by descent to Edward Alexander Poulter (1883–1973); Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1938; Sir Thomas Barlow (1845–1945); then by descent to Helen Alice Dorothy Barlow (1887–1975); bequeathed to the Gallery, 1976

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1938, no.146 as ’Rome’; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.16 as ’A Classical Composition’; Manchester, 1975, no.52 as ’Classical Composition, after Marco Ricci’; Edinburgh, 1979, no.23; London, 2002, no.64


Mayne, 1949, p.108; Baker, 2011, p.130 as 'A Capriccio of Ancient Ruins and Gothic Architecture'

About this Work

This is one of six watercolours that were painted by Girtin from etchings made after the architectural views of the Italian artist Marco Ricci (1676–1730) (see the source image above). The etchings were executed by Davide Fossati (1708–95) and published in Venice in 1743 as 24 Landscapes after Marco Ricci. The Venetian artist enjoyed considerable popularity in England following his two stays (1708–11 and 1712–16), and his Vedute – imaginary architectural views combining ruined buildings and sculptures in a generic classical, Italianate style – found a ready market, first as bodycolours and then as etchings published by Fossati and others after his death. In this example, Girtin followed Fossati’s etching closely, though he excluded one of the figures measuring the antique column in the centre and simplified the composition slightly by omitting the campanile adjacent to the statue. Girtin also followed the sense of the print, which reverses the direction of Ricci’s original tempera (private collection, Italy). The colours employed by Girtin bear no relation to the Ricci model, which, in any case, he did not have access to. However, as Susan Morris has noted, Girtin would have seen a number of Ricci’s bodycolours in the collection of his early patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), and the colour range here does match, to some degree, the Venetian artist’s characteristic palette of pale orange, pink and blue (Morris, 1986, p.18).

Detail showing Girtin's fingerprints left and right of the column

All six of the copies after Ricci’s compositions were executed on similar laid paper, each measuring roughly 32 × 48 cm (12 ½ × 19 in) – that is, larger than the originals – and it is therefore tempting to characterise them in the same terms as the set of watercolours that Girtin produced after the compositions of Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820) (such as TG0888). However, although the Ricci copies are also based on prints, there is no evidence that they were produced on commission for a patron such as John Henderson (1764–1843). Indeed, appearing to date from later on stylistic grounds, say around 1800–1801, the watercolours were probably made for sale on the open market, where two of them were bought by an early collector of Girtin’s work, either Peter Bluett (1767–1863) of Holcombe Court in Devon or a relative of a later owner of the property, the Revd William Rayer (1786–1866). The fact that the works were not acquired directly from the artist by a patron who had a say in their production is, I suggest, of some importance, as it significantly increases the possibility that Girtin bought the Fossati prints himself, just as he was to do with a group of French architectural views published in twelve volumes as Voyage Pittoresque de la France (La Borde and others, 1781–1800). Moreover, he did so with the intention of making saleable commodities, and there is certainly no question of his having produced the copies for his own study. The work is difficult to date precisely, but the manner in which the artist has fudged the spatial relationship between the foreground and the distance, and the arbitrary and inconsistent lighting, recalls the slightly disappointing effect of later print copies such as Lyons Cathedral (TG1907) from around 1802, rather than the more carefully articulated earlier versions of Clérisseau’s prints. Indeed, although not presumably from Girtin’s last year, the Ricci-inspired watercolours feel later in date than the 1798–99 proposed by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.176).

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support used by Girtin as a rope-brown laid wrapping paper, which he describes as a very cheap low-grade material, manufactured by an unknown English maker. Girtin worked on his favoured wireside, where the surface is impressed with the lines of the mould used in its manufacture, and he left two fingerprints clearly visible either side of the central column (see figure 1) (Smith, 2002b, p.90; Bower, Report).

1799 - 1800

Rome: The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina


(?) 1802

Lyon Cathedral


by Greg Smith

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