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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

Christchurch Priory

1792 - 1793

Print after: John Walker (active 1776–1802), 'from an Original Drawing by T. Girtin', etching and engraving, 'Christ-Church Abbey, Hampshire' for The Copper-Plate Magazine, vol.5, no.104, pl.207, 1 September 1800, 15 × 20 cm, 5 ⅞ × 7 ⅞ in. Reprinted in Thomas Miller, Turner and Girtin's Picturesque Views, p.143, 1854. British Museum, London (1862,0712.826).

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

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Christchurch Priory, 1 August 1791, graphite on laid paper, 16.8 × 21.3 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ⅜ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.657).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Christchurch Priory
1792 - 1793
Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; Hampshire View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
The original known only from the print


Possibly 'Daniell'; bought from him by Dr John Percy (1817–89), 1875; his posthumous sale, Christie's, 17 April 1890, lot 519 as 'Christ Church Abbey, Hampshire; and the engraving'; bought by 'Vokins' for £3 10s; J & W Vokins

About this Work

The long-lost watercolour by Girtin of the priory church of Christchurch in Hampshire is known only from the engraving that appeared in The Copper-Plate Magazine in September 1800, which is inscribed ‘from an Original Drawing by T. Girtin’ (Walker, 1792–1802, vol.5) (see the print after, above). The watercolour was presumably supplied to the publisher John Walker (active 1776–1802) by James Moore (1762–99), who lent a number of his drawings by Girtin for engraving, including a view of Exeter Cathedral (TG0092). This would explain why the subject is not recorded in any of the lists of the Moore collection as it passed down several generations of the family following the death of Girtin’s patron in 1799. The inscription on the print, combined with the survival of Moore’s drawing, does mean that we can be fairly sure that the lost watercolour was one of the seventy or so copies that Girtin produced from the antiquarian’s on-the-spot sketches. Girtin is documented as having worked for Moore between October 1792 and February 1793 for a fee of six shillings a day, producing small watercolours on paper generally measuring roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm) and it is likely that the missing drawing fitted this format (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1

Moore chose a viewpoint for his sketch at the east end (see the source image above), from where the impressive length of the priory church can be appreciated. Girtin corrected the amateur’s shaky perspective but could do little to improve what Nikolaus Pevsner describes as the ‘disjointed’ appearance of the building when viewed from an oblique angle (Pevsner and Lloyd, 1967, p.167). Edward Dayes (1763–1804) struggled with the same problem when he repeated Moore’s composition in a watercolour dated 1792.2 A professional artist might have corrected the faulty perspective in the foreground, but it would have taken a visit to the site itself to sort out the confused collection of parts of the building in the distance.

Christchurch Abbey, Hampshire

The collector Dr John Percy (1817–89) recorded in 1875 that he had acquired what he described as ‘a reduced copy’ (‘6.55”w. 4.3”h’) of Girtin’s original drawing, ‘made for the engraver’ (Percy Catalogue, p.42/2). Despite the fact that Percy himself thought that his drawing displayed ‘not the slightest resemblance to Girtin's work’ it was sold as an autograph work of the artist (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 17 April 1890, lot 519). Because it too has remained untraced, there is still the possibility, therefore, that it was the Girtin drawing engraved for the Copper-Plate Magazine. More recently, what appears to be a copy of the print appeared at auction as 'Attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851)' (Reeman Dansie, 9 November 2022, lot 1323, see figure 1).3 The poor quality of the watercolour suggests that we are no closer to tracing the missing original.

1792 - 1793

The West Front of Exeter Cathedral, and St Mary Major


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The document detailing the payments made to the young Girtin by Moore is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1792–93 – Item 1).
  2. 2 The Dayes watercolour from 1792, made during the period of Girtin’s apprenticeship, appeared at auction in 2017 (Clarke's, 8 January 2017, lot 6).
  3. 3 The work was with the Fine Art Society in November 1958 and was sold again at Reeman Dansie, Colchester in February 2018 when it fetched £6000.

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