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Works Thomas Girtin

The Ancient Charnel House, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon

1794 - 1795

 

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • The Ancient Charnel House, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
29.5 × 23.5 cm, 11 ⅝ × 9 ¼ in
Inscription

'T. Girtin' on the gravestone, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; The Midlands

Collection
Versions
The Ancient Charnel House, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon (TG1021)
The Ancient Charnel House, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon (TG1022)
Catalogue Number
TG1023
Girtin & Loshak Number
89i as 'The Ancient Charnel House, Stratford-on-Avon Church'; '1794–5'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2016

Provenance

Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to George Wyndham Hog Girtin (1835–1911) (lent to London, 1875); by a settlement to his sister, Ida Johanna Hog Rogge, née Girtin (1834–1925), January 1880 as 'Llanwern Church Glamorganshire'; sold by her to J. Palser & Sons (stock no.15472); bought by Henry Melville Gaskell (1879–1954), 19 December 1901 as 'Llanwen Church'; then by descent

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.81 as ’Langwern Church, Glamorganshire’

About this Work

This is one of three watercolours showing the ancient charnel house attached to the south chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon (the others being TG1021 and TG1022). The charnel house, which was removed in 1800, was built to house the skeletons needing to be reinterred after the graves were cleared to provide more room for new burials. The largest version (TG1022) was painted for Girtin’s earliest patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99). Girtin produced more than a hundred small-scale watercolours after sketches made by Moore of the nation’s medieval ruins and Gothic monuments, and this work too may have been produced after an untraced drawing by the patron. However, its size, comparable with the cathedral views that Girtin produced for Moore from on-the-spot sketches made on his 1794 tour of the Midland counties undertaken with the patron himself, suggests that it was not produced at second hand, though Girtin’s sketch is not known to have survived. Other than the existence of the charnel house views, there is no evidence that Moore travelled to Stratford, though it would be surprising to find that Girtin had happened upon the subject himself without the guidance of Moore. The view has no particular picturesque quality to recommend it, and its attraction as a subject must have been down to the patron and his antiquarian interests. As one of the last charnel houses to survive, the example at Stratford also had the added interest of a close connection with Shakespeare, whose tomb inside the church includes a curse that references the practice of reinterment.

Good frend for Iesus sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst enclosed heare,
Blest be Ye man yt spares these stones,
And curst be he yt moves my bones.

Girtin, by adding his signature to the gravestone, added a note of dark humour, though, as with the other versions of the composition, he did not seek to exploit the subject’s rich potential of associations.

This work, in contrast to the watercolour produced for Moore, is smaller and is painted in a monochrome palette. Though this is unusual, it was not without precedent in the work Girtin executed for Moore and another of his early patrons, Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), specifically a group of views of the medieval ruins at the Savoy on the banks of the Thames. A monochrome work, Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace (TG0226), was painted for Moore at the same time as a full-colour version of the composition (TG0366), whilst a grey wash drawing, An Interior View of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital (TG0369), commissioned by Monro, was also realised in colour for Moore (TG0348). None of these works are dated, and it is not possible to say which came first, but they were probably produced around 1795–96, and this is the likeliest date for this monochrome view of the charnel house too. Indeed, it is not inconceivable that Girtin executed this work for Monro, though the fact that it seems to have come from the collection of the artist’s son, Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74), suggests that it might have remained unsold during his lifetime.

1794 - 1795

The Ancient Charnel House, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon

TG1021

1795 - 1796

The Ancient Charnel House, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon

TG1022

1795 - 1796

The Ancient Charnel House, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon

TG1022

1795 - 1796

Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond

TG0226

1795 - 1796

Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond

TG0366

1795 - 1796

An Interior View of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital

TG0369

1795 - 1796

An Interior View of the Ruins of the Savoy Hospital

TG0348

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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