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Works Thomas Girtin after Tavernier de Jonquières

The Church of Saint Corneille at Compiègne

(?) 1802

Primary Image: TG1908: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Tavernier de Jonquières, The Church of Saint Corneille at Compiègne, (?) 1802, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper, 32.5 × 31.4 cm, 12 ¾ × 12 ⅜ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.142).

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

Artist's source: François-Denis Née (1732–1818), after Tavernier de Jonquières (unknown dates), engraving, 'Vue de L'Eglise de St. Corneille de Compiègne' for Voyage Pittoresque de la France, vol.6, 'Compiegne no.7', 1787, 17.5 × 24.4 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ⅝ in. British Library, London (1299.I.16).

Photo courtesy of The British Library Board (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Tavernier de Jonquières
Title
  • The Church of Saint Corneille at Compiègne
Date
(?) 1802
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper
Dimensions
32.5 × 31.4 cm, 12 ¾ × 12 ⅜ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary Foreign
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; French View

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG1908
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018

Provenance

Francis Pierrepont Barnard (1854–1931); his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934

Bibliography

Brown, 1982, p.344, no.754 as 'Circle of' Girtin; Smith, 2017–18, p.40

About this Work

The attribution to Girtin of this view of the west front of the church of Saint Corneille at Compiègne was questioned by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), who suggested that it is by John Henderson (1764–1843) (Girtin Archive, 14). However, although the quality is not high, and David Brown in his catalogue of the watercolours in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, listed it as ‘circle of Girtin’, the issue of its authorship has been clouded by its poor, faded condition (Brown, 1982, p.344). This is certainly not Girtin at his best, with out-of-scale figures and a less than secure perspective, but the work is not out of keeping with other French views that were copied by the artist from prints, and stylistically it is closely comparable with another Compiègne scene showing the Porte Chapelle (TG1909). Both views were copied from prints after the topographical artist Tavernier de Jonquières (unknown dates) that had been published a decade or so earlier in the Voyage Pittoresque de la France (see the source image above), and Girtin certainly did not visit the town during his stay in France in the winter and early spring of 1801–2 (La Borde and others, 1781–1800). However, he may have bought the engravings during his trip to Paris; indeed, they may have been amongst the ‘Books of French prints of … Landscapes unbound’ that were left in his studio at his death (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804; Smith, 2017–18, p.35).1 Other watercolours made after prints from the Voyage Pittoresque include Paris: The Ruins of the Roman Baths, Hôtel de Cluny (TG1896 and TG1897), Paris: The Hôtel de Ville and the Church of Saint-Jean-en-Grève (TG1906) and An Interior View of the Nave of Laon Cathedral (TG1911), which constitute a distinctive and coherent group of architectural views. Although none of the works were made from on-the spot sketches, it still cannot be said for sure whether they were produced on the artist’s return to England or whether they were painted in France. Indeed, the fact that they were created from earlier prints actually means that we cannot rule out what would once have been an unthinkable alternative – namely, that this and some of the other French views may even predate the artist’s trip. 

As with the other copies of prints from the Voyage Pittoresque, Girtin adapted – and improved upon – the original composition. Cropping the scene to the right brings the ornate fifteenth-century church facade closer to the viewer, and, by including more of the sky, Girtin changed the proportions of the scene so that it is almost square, helping to give the building a greater sense of monumentality. The figures too are reduced in number and are Girtin’s own invention. 

(?) 1802

The Porte Chapelle, Compiègne

TG1909

(?) 1802

Paris: The Ruins of the Roman Baths, Hôtel de Cluny

TG1896

(?) 1802

Paris: The Ruins of the Roman Baths, Hôtel de Cluny

TG1897

(?) 1802

Paris: The Hôtel de Ville and the Church of Saint-Jean-en-Grève

TG1906

(?) 1802

An Interior View of the Nave of Laon Cathedral

TG1911

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 The financial records of John Girtin covering the income he received from the sale of the contents of his brother's studio, as well as from the  Eidometropolis and the twenty aquatints of the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with a detailed account of the expenses from both projects, are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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