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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

The Castle Rock, Edinburgh

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0129: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), The Castle Rock, Edinburgh, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original mount, 16.5 × 21.5 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ½ in. The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (1187).

Photo courtesy of The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (All Rights Reserved)

Print after: John Landseer (1769–1852), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), engraving, 'Rock and Castle of Edinburgh' for Twenty-Five Views in the Southern Part of Scotland, p.97, 1794, 8 × 11.4 cm, 3 ⅛ × 4 ½ in. Reprinted in Robert Forsyth, The Beauties of Scotland, vol.1, p.7, 1805. Bodleian Library, Oxford (G.A. Scott 4o37. Bliss A).

Photo courtesy of The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Edinburgh Castle, 26 August 1792, graphite on wove paper, 18.1 × 22.9 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.712).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Castle Rock, Edinburgh
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original mount
16.5 × 21.5 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ½ in
Mount Dimensions
24.7 × 29.4 cm, 9 ⅝ × 10 ½ in

‘Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Scottish View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


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 Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), 1912, £20; bought from him by the Museum, 1927

Exhibition History

Cotswold Gallery, 1926, no.27; Kendal, 1970, no.50; Manchester, 1975, no.2; Cambridge, 1994, no number, p.58


Mayne, 1949, p.31, p.100; Hughes and Mayne, 1950, pl.16; Bury, 1956, p.10; Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.4

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin showing the rock on which the great fortress of Edinburgh Castle is situated was made after a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see the source image above, and the artist himself never visited the site. Girtin’s earliest patron made an extensive tour of Scotland in the late summer of 1792 and his sketch of the castle site from the north west is dated 26 August. Girtin is documented as having worked for Moore between October 1792 and February 1793 for a fee of six shillings a day, producing watercolours generally measuring roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm), each with its own distinctive washline mount (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 In this case the colour from the drawing has seeped onto the mount, a good indication that it was conceived as an integral part of the watercolour. 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 descendants until it was broken up after 1912, when this work was acquired by a great-grandson of the artist, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960).

Moore’s primary interest as an antiquarian was in the architecture of the numerous ancient buildings he sketched on his travels around Britain, but in this case it was the location of the castle that caught his attention: a ‘nearly perpendicular’ rocky outcrop that rendered it ‘impregnable’ (Moore, 1794, pp.99–100). In his 1794 publication Twenty-Five Views in the Southern Part of Scotland, Moore states that his sketch of the castle from the north west ‘is not so much intended to convey an idea of the building as of the immense rock on which it stands’ (Moore, 1794, p.100). Perhaps because Moore had a clear idea of what he wanted to show in his view, Girtin needed to do little in terms of adapting his patron’s commission. Alone of the twenty-five engravings included in Moore’s publication, the view of Edinburgh’s situation was made after a watercolour by Girtin, rather than Dayes, with the print including a simplified version of the tartan-clad figures that Girtin had added to the patron’s composition (see the print after above). This anomaly suggests, in turn, two possibilities regarding Girtin’s work for Moore – firstly that he was initially employed to conclude a project that Dayes, for some reason, had left unfinished, and secondly that the remainder of Girtin’s versions of Moore’s Scottish drawings may have been made for a second, unrealised volume covering the northern part of the country.

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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