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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Thomas Malton the Younger

London: Interior of St Stephen Walbrook, Looking East


Primary Image: TG0014: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Thomas Malton the Younger (1748–1804), London: Interior of St Stephen Walbrook, Looking East, 1790, watercolour on paper, on an original mount, 15.9 × 12.4 cm, 6 ¼ × 4 ⅞ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F03342-0099 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Thomas Malton the Younger (1748-1804)
  • London: Interior of St Stephen Walbrook, Looking East
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper, on an original mount
15.9 × 12.4 cm, 6 ¼ × 4 ⅞ in

‘T. Girtin 1790’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
London Architecture

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive


Sotheby’s, 20 November 1963, lot 43 as 'An Eighteenth Century Church, the interior with elegant figures admiring a painting'; bought by 'Crawley', £80; Sotheby's, 13 January 1965, lot 52; bought by James Caulfield, £145

About this Work

Thomas Malton the Younger (1748–1804), aquatint, hand-coloured, 'S<sup>t</sup>. Stephen's Wallbrook' for <i>A Picturesque Tour through the Cities of London and Westminster</i>, 13 December 1798, 31.8 × 23.2 cm, 12 ½ × 9 ⅛ in. London Metropolitan Archives (p5359332).

Of all of the works dated with some certainty to the period of Girtin’s apprenticeship to Edward Dayes (1763–1804), this watercolour has the strongest claim to not having been made from an image by another artist. The drawing that Girtin made for Charles Taylor’s (1756–1823) periodical The Temple of Taste (TG0045) showing the interior of Sir Christopher Wren’s (1632–1723) great London church, again looking east, was made after a view by Samuel Wale (c.1721–86), but extensive searches have not turned up a primary source for this work. The watercolour’s composition certainly resembles the work of Thomas Malton the Younger (1748–1804), but his view of the interior of St Stephen Walbrook was not published until 1798 (figure 1). And in any case, Girtin’s view is taken from a slightly different spot, further down the nave and marginally to the south. From here the interlocking spaces pose a complex perspectival challenge that Girtin avoids by adopting a more central position. Two small details suggest that Girtin was working from his own sketch and that it lacked the customary accuracy that Malton, as the leading architectural draughtsman of the day, invariably balanced with his skill in the art of perspective. Thus, Girtin mistakenly shows the clerestory window on the east elevation as circular in contrast to Malton, who depicts it correctly as semi-circular headed. Likewise, Malton renders the relief decoration on the coffer of the dome accurately, whilst in Girtin’s view the same decorative details and their proportions are inaccurate and misleading, presumably because he did not take enough care when sketching the subject. Girtin did copy a number of Malton’s works about five years later (such as TG0871), and there such architectural details are invariably rendered correctly. However, whilst it is still possible that Girtin worked from an as yet untraced source from an earlier period when less premium was placed on accuracy, the shortcomings of this work are, on balance, more understandable as the products of the young artist going it alone.

Girtin’s other early view of St Stephen Walbrook (TG0045) was made for engraving. However, though this work too is small in scale, the level of finish, the careful depiction of the figures and the fine light effect shining through the hidden lantern window suggest that the subject was set by Dayes with the thought of making a sale. This was certainly true with Durham Cathedral, from the River Wear (TG0012) and Eton College, from the River (TG0013), and if that were the case here it would have carried a specific meaning. Girtin’s view is dominated by the painting that hangs over the altar and for which the architecture acts as an elaborate frame. Benjamin West (1738–1820) exhibited his Devout Men Taking the Body of St Stephen at the Royal Academy in 1776 and it was installed later in the year in Wren’s great church. West accepted a relatively small sum for the commission, hoping that other churches might follow suit and thus provide the encouragement that history painting in Britain required if the modern school were to match its illustrious predecessors. This was the ambition of Dayes too, and he argued the importance of religious commissions at length in his Essays on Painting, published posthumously in 1805, and he also produced a series of grand watercolours of religious subjects for display at the Royal Academy (Dayes, Works). Depicting West’s altarpiece within an architectural scene was, given the strictures that Dayes presumably also directed towards his student, the closest Girtin got to a religious subject at any time in his career.

1790 - 1791

Interior of St Stephen Walbrook, Looking East


1795 - 1796

London: The Royal Exchange


1790 - 1791

Interior of St Stephen Walbrook, Looking East



Durham Cathedral, from the River Wear



Eton College, from the River


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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