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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Colchester Castle

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0127: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), Colchester Castle, 1792–93, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 16.9 × 21.5 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.115).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Colchester Castle
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, on an original washline mount
16.9 × 21.5 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in
Mount Dimensions
23.5 × 28.2 cm, 9 ¼ × 11 ⅛ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Essex View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2016


James Moore (1762–99); his widow, Mary Moore (née Howett) (d.1835); bequeathed to Anne Miller (1802–90); bequeathed to Edward Mansel Miller (1829–1912); bequeathed to Helen Louisa Miller (1842–1915); bought by Francis Pierrepont Barnard (1854–1931), 1912, £15; his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.12; London, 1984d, no.525


Finberg, 1913, pl.76b; Davies, 1924, pl.6; Bell, 1915–17, p.72; Brown, 1982, pp.324–25, no.709

About this Work

George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824), after James Moore (1762–99), aquatint, 'Colchester Castle' for <i>Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales</i>, p.91, 1 January 1792, 8 × 10.9 cm, 3 ⅛ × 4 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection Library.

This view by Girtin of Colchester Castle, with its distinctive cupola on the south-east tower, was made after an untraced sketch by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), and Girtin did not visit the site himself. Girtin’s earliest patron toured the eastern counties in the summer of 1790 and he sketched the castle on 26 August. The date was noted on an aquatint of the view by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) that was published in Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (see figure 1) (Moore, 1792). Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak thought that Girtin worked from the print (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.141), but, since the publication of their catalogue in 1954, more sketches by Moore have emerged and it is now clear that Girtin produced his watercolours directly from the patron’s on-the-spot records. 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), as here, with each carefully mounted, often with the patron’s inscription (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 In all Girtin produced as many as seventy watercolours from Moore’s mundane sketches. The majority of the drawings remained in the ownership of Moore’s family until the collection was broken up after 1912, when a descendant of Girtin acquired this work.

The Norman keep of Colchester Castle is the largest such structure in Britain. It was built on the site of a Roman temple and some of the temple’s building materials (in the form of bricks) were reused in the keep’s construction, as can be seen in Girtin’s view. By the time of Moore’s visit, the building had had a long history as the county prison and Parkyns’ print presumably refers to this, showing a man in the foreground in the process of being arrested. Unusually compared to his other works for Moore, Girtin also lavishes attention on the figures, though it now takes three men to effect the arrest, and beyond them a woman with her arms in the air flees in fear for her life. The latter detail may be a reference to the fact that Colchester was the base for the self-styled Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins (d.1647), who interrogated and imprisoned suspected witches.

Girtin produced a slightly larger variation of Moore’s composition in pencil for his later patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (TG0332). We can be reasonably sure that it was not produced as a preparation for this work because it is one of a group of drawings after Moore’s sketches that are drawn on a batch of wove paper manufactured by James Whatman the Younger (1741–98), and one of the sketches has a 1794 watermark (TG0251).

1794 - 1795

Colchester Castle


1794 - 1795

The West Tower of Rumburgh Priory Church


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).

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