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Works Thomas Girtin

Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0366: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 20.3 × 28.2 cm, 8 × 11 ⅛ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Guy Peppiatt Fine Art Ltd. (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
20.3 × 28.2 cm, 8 × 11 ⅛ in

'Savoy Prison / T Girtin' on the back of an of old backing

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
London and Environs; Urban Ruins

Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond (TG0226)
Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond (TG0315)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
134ii as 'Ruins of the Savoy Palace'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2012


J. Palser & Sons (stock no.16198); sold to Thos. Agnew & Sons, 9 February 1909 (stock no.6880); said by Girtin and Loshak to have been in the collection of Sir Hickman Bacon (1855–1945); ... Thos. Agnew & Sons; private collection, Netherlands; Bonhams, 25 January 2012, lot 1; bought by Guy Peppiatt Fine Art, £8,750

Exhibition History

Guy Peppiatt, London, 2012, no.19

About this Work

Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak suggest that this watercolour was based on a monochrome version of the composition that was owned by the artist’s first patron, the antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (TG0226) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.152). Aside from the addition of the feral dog in the foreground, the compositions are the same size and are identical, but it is increasingly clear that the monochrome drawing was also produced in the studio and that this watercolour was therefore made after an untraced sketch by Girtin. Employing a different set of pictorial conventions, the artist therefore created two distinct commodities from the same subject. Another watercolour showing the ruins along the riverbank (TG0315) was also worked separately, making it a third version of the same composition. The key feature here is the use of full colour and a carefully delineated sky, and this changes the complexion of the piece completely. The work may retain the same distribution of light, but the colour has the effect of making it more about an everyday scene of labour in the city; without the associations of the use of monochrome and pen and ink with revered artists from the past, we are less inclined to speculate on the moral significance of the contrast between the ancient ruins in the foreground and the modern marvel of Westminster Bridge beyond. A slightly later view from just a few metres further back (see TG0226 figure 1) suggests that the figures in all three versions of Girtin’s view at the Savoy were not invented staffage, designed to add picturesque incidents to the foreground, but were observed in the process of adapting the ruins into a working space. In the print, published in 1798, the piles of rubble have been replaced by a neat fence and in an another watercolour, of 1803,1 the area has been transformed again, this time into a makeshift wharf with a series of neat structures now inhabiting the spaces between columns that were so cluttered with rubble in Girtin’s view from around 1795. The ruins of the Savoy may have provided artists with a picturesque subject, but Girtin also saw the pictorial potential of one of London’s many marginal locations and depicted it in a way that created a potent image of a city in flux.

In contrast to some of the other ten or so views that Girtin made of the Savoy, which, as in the case of Buildings in the Process of Demolition (TG0367), are hard to identify, the distant view of Westminster Bridge to the west allows us to specify the part of the ruins shown here. The three vertical elements shown left of centre formed part of the tower identified as ‘Sutler’s House’ on the plan that accompanied George Vertue’s (1684–1756) view The Savoy from the River Thames (see TG0240 figure 2). The collapse of the roof and the windows of the tower in the intervening period left three gaunt monoliths that contrast with the more recently built Westminster Bridge beyond. Wisely, Girtin moved his viewpoint closer to the river so as to omit the bulk of the undamaged south transept of the old Savoy Hospital, which in other views disturbs the sense of a timeless ruin existing apart from its tumultuous urban setting (see TG0226 figure 2). All of this was to be swept away within a few years, however, with the building of the Strand Bridge (1811–17), later renamed Waterloo Bridge.

1795 - 1796

Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond


1795 - 1796

Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond


1794 - 1797

Buildings in the Process of Demolition, Said to Be the Ruins of the Savoy Palace


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 British Library, Ktop XXVII, no.32–33

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