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Works Thomas Girtin after Jean-Baptiste Lallemand

Lyon Cathedral

(?) 1802

Primary Image: TG1907: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Jean-Baptiste Lallemand (1716–1803), Lyon Cathedral, (?) 1802, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 24.2 × 30.9 cm, 9 ½ × 12 ⅛ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.29).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Artist's source: François-Denis Née (1732–1818), after Jean-Baptiste Lallemand (1716–1803), engraving, 'Vue de L'Eglise Archiépiscopale de S.t Jean a Lyon' for Voyage Pittoresque de la France, vol.9, 'Lyon no.9', 1786, 17.5 × 24.4 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ⅝ in. Musée D'Histoire de Lyon.

Photo courtesy of Musée D'Histoire de Lyon (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Jean-Baptiste Lallemand (1716-c.1803)
  • Lyon Cathedral
(?) 1802
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
24.2 × 30.9 cm, 9 ½ × 12 ⅛ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary Foreign
Subject Terms
French View; Gothic Architecture: Cathedral View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2018


Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.22 as 'View of a Cathedral'; Smith, 2017–18, p.40 as 'Lyon Cathedral'

About this Work

The attribution to Girtin of this view of the west front of Lyon Cathedral, until recently unidentified, was questioned by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) (Girtin Archive, 14). However, although the quality is not high, with out-of-scale figures and a less than secure perspective in the building, it can now be attributed to Girtin with some certainty, particularly as the identity of the building, as well as the work’s source, has been discovered. Girtin certainly did not visit the city of Lyon during his stay in France in the winter and early spring of 1801–2; instead, he based his watercolour on a print by François-Denis Née (1732–1818) after Jean-Baptiste Lallemand (1716–1803) that is titled Vue de L’Eglise Archiépiscopale de St Jean a Lyon (Smith, 2017–18, p.35) (see source image above). This was included in Voyage Pittoresque de la France (vol.3, 1786) and Girtin may even have acquired it when he was in France, as several ‘Books of French prints of … Landscapes unbound’ were found in his studio at his death (La Borde and others, 1781–1800Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1 Other watercolours made after prints from the Voyage Pittoresque include Paris: The Ruins of the Roman Baths, Hôtel de Cluny (TG1896 and TG1897), The Church of Saint Corneille at Compiègne (TG1908), The Porte Chapelle, Compiègne (TG1909) and An Interior View of the Nave of Laon Cathedral (TG1911), which constitute a distinctive and coherent group of architectural views. Although none of the works were made from on-the spot sketches, it still cannot be said for sure whether they were produced on the artist’s return to England or whether they were painted in France. Indeed, the fact that they were created from earlier prints actually means that we cannot rule out what would once have been an unthinkable alternative – namely, that this and some of the other French views may even predate the artist’s trip. 

As with all of the other copies of the prints from the Voyage Pittoresque, this view adapts – and indeed improves upon – the original composition. Cropping the scene to the left and right brings the cathedral closer to the viewer, and, by including more of the sky, Girtin uncharacteristically changed the proportions of the scene so that it is actually less panoramic in its scope, helping to give the building a greater sense of monumentality. The figures too are reduced in number and are Girtin’s own invention. 

Orléans: The View from La Place du Martroi, with the Towers of the Cathedral Beyond

Another architectural view, showing the twin towers of Orléans Cathedral seen from the Place du Martroi (see figure 1), has also been attributed to Girtin in the past. This came from the collection of Richard Ford (1796–1858), who owned the presentation set of drawings made from the Paris prints, and consequently the attribution deserves to be considered seriously. However, the watercolour has not been seen for almost a century and is known only from a poor-quality black and white photograph, so it is impossible to offer a definitive opinion on its authorship, other than to say that if it is by Girtin, it too must have been painted after the work of another artist, though extensive research has so far failed to establish who. 

(?) 1802

Paris: The Ruins of the Roman Baths, Hôtel de Cluny


(?) 1802

Paris: The Ruins of the Roman Baths, Hôtel de Cluny


(?) 1802

The Church of Saint Corneille at Compiègne


(?) 1802

The Porte Chapelle, Compiègne


(?) 1802

An Interior View of the Nave of Laon Cathedral


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The financial records of John Girtin covering the income he received from the sale of the contents of his brother's studio, as well as from the  Eidometropolis and the twenty aquatints of the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with a detailed account of the expenses from both projects, are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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