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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

The Keep of Rochester Castle, from the South East

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0275: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), The Keep of Rochester Castle, from the South East, 1794–95, graphite on laid paper, 16.4 × 23.7 cm, 6 ½ × 9 ¼ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII 38 (D36609).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • The Keep of Rochester Castle, from the South East
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on laid paper
16.4 × 23.7 cm, 6 ½ × 9 ¼ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Dover and Kent

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1240 as 'Ruined castle' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.10a

About this Work

This drawing shows the keep of Rochester Castle seen from the south east. It is one of forty or so outlines by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and that are now part of the Turner Bequest. Girtin certainly did not visit Rochester. Like the rest of the views of the town that he executed in the studio of his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804) (TG0057 and TG0071) and later at the house of Monro himself (TG0340), the composition was copied from the sketch of another artist. The watercolours Girtin made as Dayes’ apprentice would certainly have been based on his master’s sketches, and that was also presumably true of the colour view of the cathedral from the north east executed for Monro (TG0363). However, this drawing and another close-up view of the castle keep (TG0340) may have been based on Moore’s on-the-spot records. Certainly, we know that Moore visited Rochester at about this date as a view of the castle keep from the south (TG0231) is amongst a group of the patron’s drawings that Girtin improved and reinforced in pencil. In contrast to Dayes’ compositions, which seek out an agreeably picturesque combination of buildings, Moore’s drawings reflect the antiquarian’s interests and concentrate on the castle and its defensive capabilities. Indeed, it may have been for this reason that Girtin, or his patron, did not choose to realise this drawing as one of the watercolour cards, each measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), that were the end product of the pencil copies in the Monro collection. It is possible that a watercolour of this composition was amongst the sixty cards sold from Monro’s collection (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 7 May 1808, lots 60 and 61; Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 80–83) and has simply been lost, but there is no evidence that Monro was seeking to produce a publication addressed to the antiquarian market, and subjects such as this may have been quietly dropped.

The attribution of the pencil outlines in the Turner Bequest was a matter of considerable confusion until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s cogently argued article on the Monro School in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.9–10). Initially, Alexander Finberg, the first cataloguer of the bequest, ascribed the outlines to Girtin but thought that they were made on the spot (Finberg, 1913). Charles F. Bell, in turn, recognised that the drawings were copies, but suggested that they were made by George Isham Parkyns (1749–c.1820) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (1792) (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) in which he stated his opinion that the drawings he had bought from Monro’s sale had been produced by Girtin’s master (Bell, 1938–39, pp.97–103). Finally, Wilton’s article seems to have settled the argument, and I for one have no doubts about the attribution to Girtin of the set of drawings.

(?) 1791

Rochester Castle, from the River Medway


1791 - 1792

Rochester, from the North


1794 - 1795

The Keep of Rochester Castle, Seen from outside the Walls


1795 - 1796

Rochester Cathedral, from the North East, with the Castle Beyond


1794 - 1795

The Keep of Rochester Castle, Seen from outside the Walls


(?) 1795

Rochester Castle, from the South


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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