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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

Glamis Castle (Macbeth's Castle)

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0347: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), Glamis Castle (Macbeth's Castle), 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 34.7 × 25.6 cm, 13 ⅝ × 10 in. Private Collection, Norfolk (I-E-26).

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images, Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Glamis Castle, 2 September 1792, graphite on wove paper, 18.1 × 22.7 cm, 7 ⅛ × 8 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.725).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Glamis Castle (Macbeth's Castle)
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
34.7 × 25.6 cm, 13 ⅝ × 10 in
Object Type
Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Scottish View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
61 as 'Glamis Castle, Forfar'; '1793–4'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and April 2022


Sotheby’s, 14 May 1836, lot 364 as 'Macbeth’s Castle'; bought by 'Shirley', £1 15s; David Cox (1783–1859); then by descent to Hannah Cox (1840–1909); bought from her by Augustus Joel Walker (1868–1965), c.1906; Walker's Galleries, London; bought by William George Rawlinson (1840–1928) as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought from him by Thos. Agnew & Sons, 13 February 1908 (stock no.6342); bought by Sir Hickman Bacon (1855–1945), 30 April 1908, £31 10s; then by descent

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1908, no.131 as by Thomas Girtin; London, 1946, no.91; Arts Council, 1946, no.76; Boston, 1948, no.129; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.96; Birmingham, 1993, no.105


Tax-Exempt Heritage Assets list as 'Attributed to Thomas Girtin' (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin showing Glamis Castle, north of Dundee, was made after a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see source image TG0347), and Girtin himself never visited the site. Girtin’s earliest patron made an extensive tour of Scotland in the late summer of 1792 and his sketch of the castle from the south west is dated 2 September. 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) (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 However, this watercolour is much larger and, given that there is no evidence that the work was ever owned by Moore, it was presumably executed for another patron at a slightly later date. Perhaps because he was working for a different customer, Girtin felt free to alter Moore’s composition, cutting it left and right to create a vertical view that substantially increases the impact of the castle motif. Glamis Castle was begun around 1400, with significant alterations dating from 1670–89, and it was located on the site where King Malcom was allegedly murdered in 1034. Aside from the increased monumentality of the building shown by Girtin, there are no overt references to the events of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the villain of which was the Thane of Glamis, though not surprisingly this did not stop earlier writers from referring to the subject as ‘Macbeth’s Castle’. At one time in its history, the watercolour was said to be by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), and the attribution to Girtin has also been questioned more recently in the Tax-Exempt Heritage Assets list. However, the watercolour is demonstrably a good example of how the young Girtin was able to transform a slight pencil sketch of an amateur, albeit with limitations perhaps attendant on its larger than usual size.

Glamis Castle

The reason Girtin did not get a commission from Moore to produce a watercolour version of his sketch of Glamis was presumably because Moore had already paid Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Girtin’s master, to produce a similar view (see figure 1). It is dated 1792 and so must have been executed soon after Moore’s return from Scotland and before Girtin began his work for Moore. The drawing is the same size as Moore’s original sketch and, unlike Girtin’s watercolour, it follows the same format, making it suitable for engraving. This appeared in 1800 in John Walker’s (active 1776–1802) Copper-Plate Magazine as ‘from an Original Sketch by Jas. Moore Esq’ (Walker, 1792–1802, vol.4), with a text that discusses the death of Malcolm at Glamis.

1795 - 1796

Glamis Castle (Macbeth’s Castle)


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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