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Works Thomas Girtin after Charles-Louis Clérisseau

Rome: The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG0888: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820), Rome: The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, 1799–1800, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 30.7 × 25.8 cm, 12 ⅛ × 10 ⅛ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1198).

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

Artist's source: Domenico Cunego (1727–1803), after Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820), etching, 'Temple of Antoninus and Faustina', 1760–67, 46.8 × 60.1 cm, 18 ⅜ × 20 ⅝ in. British Museum, London (1917,1208.1149).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-1820)
  • Rome: The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
30.7 × 25.8 cm, 12 ⅛ × 10 ⅛ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Foreign Master
Subject Terms
Italian View: Rome

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
305 as 'Tempio D' Antonino e Faustino'; '1798–9'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave (1755–1831); then by descent; Christie’s, 29 May 1873, lot 76 as 'Ruins at Rome'; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £30 9s (stock no.2107); bought by Reginald Heber Prance (1829–1912), 17 February 1874, £47 5s; his sale, Christie’s, 9 May 1894, lot 52; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £7 17s 6d (stock no.1130) for J. S. Storr, plus 10% commission; then by descent to Mrs A. G. Storr; her sale, Christie's, 12 December 1913, lot 18 as 'Ruins at Rome'; bought by 'Bowden', £26 5s; J. Palser & Sons (stock no.17536); bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), 16 May 1918, £40, as 'Ruins at Rome'; given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1874, no.82 as ’Ruins at Rome’; Cambridge, 1920, no.28 as ’Ruins of a Temple (after Piranesi)’; London, 1962a, no.148; New Haven, 1986a, no.69 as ’Tempio d’Antonino e Faustina, after Giovanni Battista Piranesi’


Mayne, 1949, pl.25 as 'after Piranesi'; Hardie, 1934, p.5; YCBA Online as 'Tempio d' Antonio e Faustina, after Piranesi' (Accessed 14/09/2022)

About this Work

This watercolour has always been said to have been made from a small etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78) that was published in his Antichità Romane de’ Tempi della Repubblica, e de’ primi Imperatori (Roman Antiquities of the Time of the Republic and the First Emperors) (see figure 1), which was indeed the source of three other architectural views by Girtin (TG0885, TG0886 and TG0887) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.175). In fact, the work is based on another view of the ancient Temple of Antoninus and Faustina in the Roman Forum by Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820), which Girtin would have known as an etching by Domenico Cunego (1727–1803) published at some point between 1760 and 1767 (see the source image above). The error is understandable given Girtin’s frequent use of Piranesi’s etchings as his source material, but it also no doubt stemmed from the changes to the composition that he introduced, which resulted in a more concentrated upright image that transforms Clérisseau’s original. Thus, the artist trimmed the composition at the top and to the right and omitted the right-hand third, losing the church and the three columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the process. Gone too is the distracting genre scene of a crowd terrified by an escaped bull, to be replaced by a gentler, timeless vision of rustic figures going about their business under the imposing remains of the ancient temple, and there is no hint that the portico fronts a modern Christian church.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78), etching, 'Veduta Laterale Dell'Avanzo del Temio di Antonino e Faustina' (Side View of the Remains of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina) for <i>Le Antichità Romane</i> (Roman Antiquities), pl.31, 1756, 11.7 × 19.2 cm, 4 ⅝ × 7 ½ in. British Museum, London (1923,0612.11.20).

Girtin made at least three other watercolours after prints from Clérisseau’s views of ancient ruins, two of which came from the collection of his early patron John Henderson (1764–1843) – Rome: The Temple of Saturn (TG0893) and The Temple of Augustus at Pula (TG0896) – and it is a fair assumption that Girtin gained access to his source material at Henderson’s home at the Adelphi in London. However, unlike in the cases of those two works, both of which were executed in pen and ink around 1796–97, there is no evidence that this watercolour was produced for Henderson, and stylistically it seems to date from slightly later. It thus has links with a series of watercolours of architectural views from secondary sources that Girtin appears to have made for the open market, including other subjects taken from Piranesi (such as TG0887). The important point here is that by this date, say 1799–1800, Girtin had thoroughly absorbed any stylistic lessons that were to be derived from copying the prints of artists such as Piranesi and Clérisseau, and watercolours such as this were produced instead to meet the demand for a new type of commodity: images of ancient scenery that showcased Girtin’s skills as a watercolourist able to rise to the challenge of depicting the remains of Rome’s imperial might without actually visiting the city.

1799 - 1800

The Arch of Janus


1797 - 1798

The Temple of Augustus at Pula in Istria


1799 - 1800

The Temple of Clitumnus


1796 - 1797

Rome: The Temple of Saturn, Called the Temple of Concord


1797 - 1798

The Temple of Augustus at Pula in Istria


1799 - 1800

The Temple of Clitumnus


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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