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Works Thomas Girtin

The Monument to Anthony and Anne Forster, Cumnor Church

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Monument to Anthony and Anne Forster, Cumnor Church, 1792–93, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, 12.6 × 7.3 cm, 5 × 2 ⅞ in. Private Collection.

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • The Monument to Anthony and Anne Forster, Cumnor Church
Date
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper
Dimensions
12.6 × 7.3 cm, 5 × 2 ⅞ in
Inscription

'T. Girtin' lower left by Thomas Girtin; 'Foster's Tomb / Cumnor Ch.' on the back in pencil

Object Type
Copy from an Unknown Source; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; Oxfordshire View

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0018
Description Source(s)
Photograph

About this Work

This intriguing and unpublished early antiquarian study was brought to my attention by Andrew Greg in 2023. It depicts the monument of Anthony Forster (c.1510–72) and Anne Forster (d.1599) in St Michael’s Church at Cumnor in Oxfordshire.1 Girtin only painted one other church monument, that to one of the Alard family in the church of St Thomas, Winchelsea (TG0352), and the uncharacteristic subject is matched by a hard-edged style that without the entirely convincing and prominent signature to the left would not readily be associated with the artist. The rather florid form of the ‘T. Girtin’ closely resembles the signatures on early works such as The River Wye at New Weir (TG0067) and, more particularly, The West Front of St Paul’s Cathedral (TG0043), both of which were painted around 1791 when Girtin was still an apprentice to Edward Dayes (1763–1804). A similar very early date for the view of the Forster monument would account for the significant failings in its perspective, whilst the inflexible use of a penned outline and the work’s small scale (12.6 × 7.3 cm, 5 × 2 ⅞ in) suggests that as with the view of St Paul’s this work too was produced for reproduction. This was one of a group drawn by the apprentice Girtin for The Temple of Taste, the work of the architectural publisher and writer Charles Taylor (1756–1823), and though no print has been traced he is the likeliest candidate as the person who commissioned the image of the Forster monument.

Anthony Forster was a protégé of Robert Dudley (1532–88), later Earl of Leicester, who was the tenant of Cumnor Place. Dudley’s first wife Amy Robsart died at Cumnor in 1560 in puzzling circumstances, an event made famous by Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) in his novel Kenilworth (1821). There were written descriptions of the Purbeck Marble monument and its inscriptions and brasses prior to Scott’s novel, but no engravings were published and as Edward Impey the author of a detailed study of the monument has noted, no earlier images are known (Impey, 2020, pp.91–127). This is particularly significant because there is no question of the young apprentice Girtin travelling to Oxfordshire to sketch the subject from life and he must have worked from a sketch by another, presumably amateur artist, and this may help to explain why the image was never engraved. For, as Impey has also pointed out, the watercolour omits the most significant part of the monument, the fine brasses on the back wall depicting Forster, his wife and their three children, as well as the ornate heraldic plaques.2 Perhaps working from a defective model, the young artist unwittingly produced a partial record of the monument and one that if engraved would have been of only limited interest and use to the antiquarian market served by Taylor and his publications.

(?) 1796

One of the Alard Monuments in the Church of St Thomas, Winchelsea

TG0352

1791 - 1792

The River Wye at New Weir

TG0067

1790 - 1791

The West Front of St Paul’s Cathedral

TG0043

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 Previously in the county of Berkshire.
  2. 2 Noted in an email to the author.

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