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Works Thomas Girtin

Part of the Tuileries Palace with the Louvre (Place du Carrousel)


Primary Image: TG1894: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Part of the Tuileries Palace with the Louvre (Place du Carrousel), 1801, graphite and watercolour on two pieces of laid paper, 37.7 × 32 cm, 14 ⅞ × 12 ⅝ in. Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin (1982.1299).

Photo courtesy of Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Part of the Tuileries Palace with the Louvre (Place du Carrousel)
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on two pieces of laid paper
37.7 × 32 cm, 14 ⅞ × 12 ⅝ in

‘Girtin 1801’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin; ‘Part of the Thuilleries palace where Buonaparte resides the house of Lucien Buonoparte and the house blown up by the infernal machine’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; Paris and Environs; The View from Above

Part of the Tuileries Palace with the Louvre (Place du Carrousel) (TG1893)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
481 as 'Part of the Tuileries, Paris'
Description Source(s)
Museum Website


Sewall W. Barker; his sale, Christie’s, 21 June 1875, lot 2 as 'The Place Carrousel, Paris, 1801', unsold; ... P & D Colnaghi & Co., 1943; bought by James Leslie Wright (1862–1954) (lent to Agnew's, 1953a); Mrs J. J. H. Spink; Spink & Son Ltd, London, 1982; bought by Mr and Mrs Richard Thune; presented to the Museum, 1982

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1953a, no.10; Spink’s, London, 1982, no.18


Mayne, 1949, p.59; Scarborough, 2006, p.106

About this Work

Girtin arrived in Paris late in November 1801, having made the channel crossing on the twentieth, and so this view of the Tuileries Palace, which is signed and dated ‘1801’, must have been amongst the first works that he executed during his stay in the capital. An inscription on the back of the watercolour by the artist himself identifies the focus of his interest: ‘Part of the Thuilleries palace where Buonaparte resides the house of Lucien Buonoparte and the house blown up by the infernal machine’. The Tuileries Palace, which was destroyed during the Paris Commune in 1871, was located between the two arms of the Louvre and at this time was inhabited by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821). In this view looking west over the Place du Carrousel, part of its facade is visible in the centre, with the house of Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), the First Consul’s brother, in the centre, whilst the remnants of the building destroyed by the explosion are shown in the foreground. As Napoleon’s home, the Tuileries was a magnet for British travellers, who sought out every detail about the First Consul, not least those relating to the notorious assassination attempt of 24 December 1800. The massive bomb – the ‘infernal machine’ – killed and injured a large number of people and caused much damage around the palace, though Napoleon himself escaped unhurt. The men shown working in the foreground are therefore clearing away the damage a year after an event that even overshadowed the arrest of the royal family, who had been confined in the palace before the building was stormed in August 1792, an event that ultimately marked the beginning of their demise.

It is not surprising that Girtin’s attention was caught by this sight as his first lodgings in Paris, in the Rue de Malte, were close to the Rue Saint-Nicaise, where the bomb exploded. This view across the Place du Carrousel would not have been visible from his rooms, however, and the artist seems to have taken up an elevated position, either from a window in the southern arm of the Louvre or, more likely, from a building in front that has since been demolished. This presumably offered Girtin a degree of protection whilst he sketched such a sensitive subject – something that for a foreign artist, and one from a nation until very recently at war with France, was no doubt of some importance – and he actually described to his brother, John Girtin (1773–1821), how he had made drawings from a ‘Hackey carriage’ to avoid attracting attention (Girtin, Letter, 1802).1 Unfortunately, I have not been able to view the watercolour at first hand and assess whether it was actually sketched on the spot in colour or was worked up in the studio from a lost pencil sketch. The inscription on the back might suggest the former and that a second version of the composition (TG1893) is therefore based on this watercolour; conversely, though, the presence of a signature and date could point to this being a studio work too. The solution to this quandary might lie in a better understanding of the cause of the curious appearance of the work, which has implausibly been explained as a result of it being cut down from a larger composition and then pieced back together with the ‘two sections differently colored to suggest full daylight and twilight’ (Blanton Museum Website. Accessed 21/09/2022). More likely is the suggestion made by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, who argued that an early mount protected the left side whilst the rest faded due to the use of indigo, though this does not explain why the work appears on two pieces of paper (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.200). However, there are a number of instances of Girtin cutting his sketches to try out an alternative composition or detail (such as TG1014 and TG1015), and it may be that this was the case here, but the drawing needs to be the subject of more research, including a technical examination, before we can be sure of its precise status.

1801 - 1802

Part of the Tuileries Palace with the Louvre (Place du Carrousel)


(?) 1794

The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral


(?) 1794

Part of the North-West Tower of the West Front of Peterborough Cathedral


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 From a letter to the artist’s brother, John Girtin (1773–1821). The only surviving letter from Thomas Girtin includes crucial evidence about the artist’s work in Paris and is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1802 – Item 2).

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