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Works (?) Thomas Girtin after (?) Samuel Wale

St Paul’s Cathedral, from the South West

1790 - 1791

Print after: Charles Taylor (1756–1828), after (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), engraving, 'Side View of St. Paul's, London' for The Temple of Taste, no.14, 1 November 1794, 12.5 cm, 4 ⅞ in. Reprinted in The Public Edifices of the British Metropolis, no.2, 1820. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection Library.

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art (Public Domain)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Samuel Wale (1720-1786)
  • St Paul’s Cathedral, from the South West
1790 - 1791
Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print
Subject Terms
London Architecture

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
The original known only from the print

About this Work

'St Paul's'

Charles Taylor’s (1756–1823) engraving of St Paul’s Cathedral from the south west for his periodical The Temple of Taste was published on 1 December 1795, and it was the second of three views of Sir Christopher Wren’s (1632–1723) architectural masterpiece. The original drawing, presumably by the young apprentice Girtin, has not been traced, though its source in an earlier print after Samuel Wale (1720–86) has been identified (see figure 1). Wale’s image provided Taylor’s artist with the basic composition, to which he added more refined architectural details as well as an engaging foreground with coaches and various elegant figures promenading around the railings. Even if Wale’s view was not the initial source for Taylor’s engraving, there is little possibility that the artist, whether Girtin or not, made a new sketch on the spot, as the view is necessarily an idealised one. The cathedral was hemmed in to the south by a heterogeneous mix of humble buildings and from no position could one view more than the upper parts of the structure. The ‘noble edifice’, Taylor argued in the text that accompanied the engraving, demanded a number of views to do it justice; additionally, by viewing the west front and the south elevation as an extended ‘perspective’, one can appreciate the ‘variety of the design’ and the subtle ‘distribution of the parts’. What Taylor wanted from his artist was in effect a model of the building rather than the picturesque views of buildings in their urban contexts that a new generation of topographical draughtsmen, such as Thomas Malton the Younger (1748–1804), were producing by this date, and in that respect Wale’s unsophisticated images were perfect.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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