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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Corfe Castle

1792 - 1793


Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Corfe Castle
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
16.5 × 21.6 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ½ in
Object Type
Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; The West Country: Devon and Dorset

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Sale Catalogue


James Moore (1762–99); given to ‘Mr Scott', 1797; ... Matthew H. Horsley; his sale, Christie's, 5 July 1946, lot 74; bought by Spink & Son Ltd, London, £50 8s; ... Spink & Son Ltd, London, 1960

Exhibition History

Spink’s, London, 1947, no.65

About this Work

This view by Girtin of the ruined castle at Corfe in Dorset was almost certainly made from a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), and Girtin probably did not visit the site himself. Girtin’s earliest patron visited Corfe in 1791 and he made at least six sketches of the ruins on two dates, 6 July and 30 July (see figure 1 and figure 2). Unfortunately, Girtin’s watercolour has not been seen in public for sixty years and as no photograph has been traced it is not possible to say which Moore drawing he worked from. However, the link between the drawing and Moore is established beyond reasonable doubt, since even though the work did not descend down the family line, as in the case of the vast majority of the drawings he commissioned from Girtin, a note by Moore records that he gave a watercolour of Corfe to a ‘Mr Scott’ in 1797.1 The dimensions of the drawing also tally with the seventy or so other drawings that Girtin produced after sketches by Moore, which are generally on paper measuring approximately 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm), and so it may have dated from the period between October 1792 and February 1793, when Girtin is documented as having worked for him for a fee of six shillings a day (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).2 Certainly, Corfe Castle was just the sort of subject to attract the interest of the antiquarian and he included an aquatint of the Norman Great Tower in his Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (see figure 3) (Moore, 1792). As was so often the case with Moore’s sketches, the close-up view records the architectural details that interested the antiquarian and it does not exploit the picturesque possibilities of the ruins’ spectacular natural setting.

Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak record another untraced view of Corfe Castle, which again has not been photographed (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.207). The work is recorded as being larger than the standard size of the watercolours made for Moore (‘8 × 12 ½ in’ (20.3 × 31.8 cm)) and it did not come from the family collection, having first been recorded in the possession of the artist’s son, Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74). The watercolour was seen by Thomas Girtin when it was sold in 1914 by Palser after apparently being bought from the collection of Ida Johanna Hog Rogge (née Girtin, 1834–1925) (Documents: 1914), but at this distance in time it is not possible to support his attribution of the work to Girtin other than to note that because Thomas Calvert Girtin acquired most of his father’s works on the open market, his ownership of a watercolour is no guarantee of its authenticity.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 Moore's papers are housed in the Print Room of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
  2. 2 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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