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Works Thomas Girtin

Pont Saint Michel, from the Pont Neuf: Colour Study for Plate Four of 'Picturesque Views in Paris'

1802

Primary Image: TG1866b: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Pont Saint Michel, from the Pont Neuf: Colour Study for Plate Four of 'Picturesque Views in Paris', 1802, watercolour over soft-ground etching on paper, 17.8 × 37.3 cm, 7 × 14 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Print after: Richard Banks Harraden (1778–1862), aquatint, and Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), soft-ground etching, 'View of Pont St Michel, taken from PONT NEUF' for Picturesque Views in Paris, pl.4, 1 January 1803, 17.8 × 37.3 cm, 7 × 14 ⅝ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.20204).

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

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • Pont Saint Michel, from the Pont Neuf: Colour Study for Plate Four of 'Picturesque Views in Paris'
Date
1802
Medium and Support
Watercolour over soft-ground etching on paper
Dimensions
17.8 × 37.3 cm, 7 × 14 ⅝ in
Object Type
Drawing for a Print
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; Panoramic Format; Paris and Environs; River Scenery

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG1866b
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue

Provenance

Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford (1788–1861); then by descent to Hastings William Sackville Russell, 12th Duke of Bedford (1888–1953); his sale, Christie's, 19 January 1951, lot 4 (18 hand-coloured prints); bought by the Fine Art Society, 480 gns; Norman Dakeyne Newall (1888–1952); his widow, Leslia Newall (d.1979); Christie’s, 13 December 1979, lot 44; bought by Spink's, £600

About this Work

This view of the picturesque Pont Saint Michel with its row of houses, together with the towers of Notre Dame to the left, was coloured by Girtin, working over a soft-ground etching (see print after TG1866), which, in turn, reproduced an on-the-spot pencil drawing made in early 1802 (TG1866). Girtin added the washes for the guidance of Richard Harraden (1778–1862), who was employed to aquatint the artist’s plate, fleshing out the lines of the etching with tones that approximate to those of a monochrome sketch (see the print after, above). The completed print was published six weeks after the artist’s death as plate four of Twenty of the Most Picturesque Views in Paris and Its Environs by his widow, Mary Ann Girtin (1781–1843), and his brother, John Girtin (1773–1821), the latter of whom, in addition to financing the project, took over the final stages of its production. The twenty prints were finally published together in an edition of around 130, with the etchings selling for four guineas, the aquatints for five guineas and a set of proof impressions six guineas (Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.8; Smith, 2017–18, pp.32–35). The large prints were very much a luxury product, so it is somewhat surprising that the list of subscribers includes, in addition to many of the best known of Girtin’s patrons, a significant number of artists, amongst which are the names of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), Sir William Beechey (1753–1839), Benjamin West (1738–1820), John Hoppner (1758–1810) and Henry Edridge (1768–1821) as well as many of Girtin’s fellow watercolourists, such as John Varley (1778–1842) and John Glover (1767–1849) (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1

Girtin produced a second set of hand-coloured impressions of his etchings, which were carefully mounted and sold by John Girtin to the dedicatee of the publication, George Capel-Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex (1757–1839), for £50, though the impression in this case has not been traced. The two sets have been the cause of considerable confusion, but, following the discovery of new evidence about John Girtin’s role in the project, it has been possible to distinguish their very different functions (Smith, 2017–18, pp.32–35). The set sold to the earl is thus complete, and it is carefully rendered and presented so as to resemble Girtin’s finished watercolours. In contrast, the group of eighteen hand-coloured etchings, which were once owned by Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford (1788–1861), are very much working drawings; indeed, in some cases they have been cut down, presumably to disguise their careless treatment whilst in the studios of the four men who were employed by the Girtin brothers to add aquatint to the plates. The practical function of drawings such as this is also evident in the fact that, in addition to providing instructions to the professional aquatinter regarding the distribution of light and shade, they often include Girtin’s amendments, though these have been kept to a minimum in this case. 

As with so many of the Paris prints, various copies exist, either made from the aquatints or with colouring added by an anonymous hand to an impression of Girtin’s soft-ground etching. What is probably an example of the former (see figure 1) comes from the collection of Girtin’s early patron John Henderson (1764–1843), who subscribed to the publication and may have been the author of a number of other copies, including of plate three (TG1865a) (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804). The monochrome watercolour has been extended laterally to create a more panoramic version of the composition, though otherwise it follows the print closely. Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), in a note in the Girtin Archive, was the first to suggest that it is by Henderson, and that is likely to be correct (Girtin Archive, 40A). For, although the drawing displays a reasonable competency, there is a lack of variety in the touches, and the arial perspective in particular is poor, all of which suggests the hand of an amateur artist.2 Another version, poorer in quality and omitting the boats on the river (see figure 2), has been attributed to Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), though there is nothing to substantiate this. 

1802

The Pont Saint Michel, from the Pont Neuf: Pencil Study for Plate Four of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’

TG1866

1802

The Pont Saint Michel, from the Pont Neuf: Pencil Study for Plate Four of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’

TG1866

1803

Paris with the Louvre, Taken from the Pont Marie: Copy of Plate Three of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’

TG1865a

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 A list of subscribers is included in John Girtin’s account of the income he received from the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with the expenses incurred in completing the project. They are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).
  2. 2 The drawing was exhibited as by Girtin at the centenary exhibition organised by the Burlington Fine Arts Club (London, 1875, no.39 as 'Paris, With View of Notre Dame').

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