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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

Spynie Palace, near Elgin

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0149: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), Spynie Palace, near Elgin, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 16.9 × 21.6 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.123).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Spynie Palace, 14 September 1792, graphite on wove paper, 17.9 × 22.9 cm, 7 × 9 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.742).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Spynie Palace, near Elgin
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount
16.9 × 21.6 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in
Mount Dimensions
23.5 × 28 cm, 9 ¼ × 11 in

‘T Girtin’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin; ‘Spynie Palace near Elgin.’ on the mount, by James Moore

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Scottish View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
62 as 'Spynie Palace, Elgin'; '1793–4'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2016


James Moore (1762–99); his widow, Mary Moore (née Howett) (d.1835); bequeathed to Anne Miller (1802–90); bequeathed to Edward Mansel Miller (1829–1912); bequeathed to Helen Louisa Miller (1842–1915); bought by Francis Pierrepont Barnard (1854–1931), 1912, £25; his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934


Brown, 1982, p.326, no.712

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin showing the ruins of Spynie Palace, on the north-east coast of Scotland near Elgin, was made after a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see source image above), and Girtin himself never visited the site. Girtin’s earliest patron undertook an extensive tour of the country in the late summer of 1792 and his sketch of the castle, seen from the north east, is dated 14 September. Girtin is documented as having worked for Moore between October 1792 and February 1793 for a fee of six shillings a day, producing watercolours on paper generally measuring roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm), as here, each with its own distinctive washline mount and inscription added by the patron (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 In all Girtin painted seventy or so small watercolours after Moore’s sketches, including about thirty compositions derived from drawings made on the trip to Scotland. Moore employed other artists to work up his sketches for reproduction, including Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), but it seems that the seventeen-year-old artist, who may still have been an apprentice at this date, was tasked with simply producing the best watercolours he could from the little more than functional records produced by the antiquarian. Moore’s collection of watercolours by Girtin, which eventually numbered over a hundred, remained in the ownership of his family until it was broken up after 1912, when this work was acquired by a descendant of the artist.

Spynie Palace was the residence of the bishops of Moray for five hundred years, though the cathedral was eventually abandoned in favour of a new building at nearby Elgin. The large structure to the right in Girtin’s view, known as David’s Tower, was built in the late fifteenth century and is the largest by volume of any Scottish medieval tower. Although the palace is close to the sea, the body of water that features so prominently in Girtin’s view was actually a sea loch that has subsequently all but disappeared. Girtin produced a second version of Moore’s view of Spynie (TG0302) that appears to be later in date and that converts the enclosed view of the loch into an open sea.

1794 - 1795

Spynie Palace: A Coastal View


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The document detailing the payments made to the young Girtin by Moore is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1792–93 – Item 1).

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