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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

Dunstaffnage Castle

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0148: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), Dunstaffnage Castle, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 16.9 × 21.7 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.121).

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

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Dunstaffnage Castle, 22 September 1792, graphite on wove paper, 17.8 × 22.7 cm, 7 × 8 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.758).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Dunstaffnage Castle
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount
16.9 × 21.7 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in
Mount Dimensions
23.3 × 28 cm, 9 ⅛ × 11 in

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; ‘Dunstaffage Castle’ on the mount, by James Moore

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Scottish 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, £30; his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934


Bell, 1915–17, pl.21b; Mayne, 1949, p.99; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.53–54; Brown, 1982, pp.320–21, no.700

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin showing the ruins of Dunstaffnage Castle, in the west of Scotland, was made after a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see the source image above), and Girtin himself never visited the site. Girtin’s earliest patron undertook an extensive tour of the country in the late summer of 1792 and this sketch of the castle from the west is dated 22 September. Girtin is documented as having worked for Moore between October 1792 and February 1793 for a fee of six shillings a day, producing watercolours on paper generally measuring roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm), each with its own distinctive washline mount and, as here, with an inscription by the patron (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 In this case the colour from the drawing has seeped onto the mount, a good indication that it was conceived as an integral part of the watercolour. In all Girtin painted seventy or so small watercolours after Moore’s sketches, including about thirty compositions derived from drawings made on the trip to Scotland. Moore employed other artists to work up his sketches for reproduction, including Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), but it seems that the seventeen-year-old artist, who may still have been an apprentice at this date, was tasked with simply producing the best watercolours he could from the little more than functional records produced by the antiquarian. Moore’s collection of watercolours by Girtin, which eventually numbered over a hundred, remained in the ownership of his family until it was broken up after 1912, when this work was acquired by a descendant of the artist.

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle dates from the thirteenth century, making it one of the oldest stone fortresses in Scotland. It is surrounded on three sides by the sea, though this is not evident in either of the two sketches that Moore produced of the site. Moore commissioned Dayes to produce a watercolour from the second of his sketches, showing the view of the castle from the south (see figure 1). Dayes’ work is signed and dated 1792 and was therefore probably produced just a few months before Girtin’s view of the castle; consequently, it provides clear evidence of the way that the young artist closely adhered to his master’s style at this date. Dayes’ work was engraved for Moore’s Twenty-Five Views in the Southern Part of Scotland (Moore, 1794) and the image was reprinted in Robert Forsyth’s The Beauties of Scotland, where the ancient castle, ‘one of the first seats of the Pictish and Scottish princes’, is described as being in a very ruinous state with a ‘dreary and desolate appearance’ quite at odds with the watercolours commissioned by Moore (Forsyth, 1805–8, vol.5, p.444).

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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