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Works Thomas Girtin

The Pont Neuf and the Mint: Colour Study for Plate Eight of Picturesque Views in Paris


Primary Image: TG1874a: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Pont Neuf and the Mint: Colour Study for Plate Eight of 'Picturesque Views in Paris', 1802, watercolour over soft-ground etching on paper, 20 × 57.2 cm, 7 ⅞ × 22 ½ in. National Gallery of Art, Washington (1980.32.1).

Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Art Washington (Public Domain)

Print after: Frederick Christian Lewis (1779–1856), aquatint, and Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), soft-ground etching, 'A View of Pont Neuf, the Mint, &c.' for Picturesque Views in Paris, pl.8, 25 January 1803, 20 × 57.2 cm, 7 ⅞ × 22 ½ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.20212).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Pont Neuf and the Mint: Colour Study for Plate Eight of Picturesque Views in Paris
Medium and Support
Watercolour over soft-ground etching on paper
20 × 57.2 cm, 7 ⅞ × 22 ½ in
Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; Panoramic Format; Paris and Environs; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website


Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford (1788–1861); then by descent to Hastings William Sackville Russell, 12th Duke of Bedford (1888–1953); his sale, Christie's, 19 January 1951, lot 4 (18 hand-coloured prints); bought by the Fine Art Society, 480 gns; Norman Dakeyne Newall (1888–1952); his widow, Leslia Newall (d.1979); Christie’s, 13 December 1979, lot 42; bought by P & D Colnaghi & Co., £2,800; bought by the Gallery, 1980

About this Work

This view of the Pont Neuf, with the building housing the Mint to the right, was coloured by Girtin working over a soft-ground etching (see print after TG1874), which, in turn, reproduced an on-the-spot pencil drawing made in early 1802 (TG1874). Girtin added the washes for the guidance of Frederick Christian Lewis (1779–1856), who was employed to aquatint the artist’s plate, fleshing out the etched lines with tones that approximate to those of a monochrome sketch (see the print after, above, though the effect has been spoilt by the drawing’s very faded condition. The completed print was published a couple of months after the artist’s death as plate eight of Twenty of the Most Picturesque Views in Paris and Its Environs by his widow, Mary Ann Girtin (1781–1843), and his brother, John Girtin (1773–1821), the latter of whom, in addition to financing the project, took over the final stages of its production. The twenty prints were finally published together in an edition of around 130, with the etchings selling for four guineas, the aquatints for five guineas and a set of proof impressions six guineas (Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.8; Smith, 2017–18, pp.32–35). The large prints were very much a luxury product, so it is somewhat surprising that the list of subscribers includes, in addition to many of the best known of Girtin’s patrons, a significant number of artists, amongst which are the names of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), Sir William Beechey (1753–1839), Benjamin West (1738–1820), John Hoppner (1758–1810) and Henry Edridge (1768–1821) as well as many of Girtin’s fellow watercolourists, such as John Varley (1778–1842) and John Glover (1767–1849) (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1

Girtin produced a second set of hand-coloured impressions of his etchings, which were carefully mounted and sold by John Girtin to the dedicatee of the publication, George Capel-Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex (1757–1839), for £50, though the whereabouts of this example is not known. The two sets have been the cause of considerable confusion, but, following the discovery of new evidence about John Girtin’s role in the project, it has been possible to distinguish their very different functions (Smith, 2017–18, pp.32–35). The set sold to the earl is thus complete, and it is carefully rendered and presented so as to resemble Girtin’s finished watercolours. In contrast, the group of eighteen hand-coloured etchings, which were once owned by Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford (1788–1861), are very much working drawings; indeed, in some cases they have been cut down, presumably to disguise their careless treatment whilst in the studios of the four men who were employed by the Girtin brothers to add aquatint to the plates. The practical function of such drawings is also evident in the fact that, in addition to providing instructions to the professional aquatinter regarding the distribution of light and shade, they often include Girtin’s amendments, though these have been kept to a minimum in this case. What appears to be another coloured study by Girtin worked over his own etching is in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art (see figure 1). However, the unfinished state of the drawing strongly suggests that this is not the missing presentation drawing bought by the Earl of Essex. 

Girtin’s viewpoint closely matches that adopted by Jean-Baptiste-François Génillion (1750–1829), whose view of the Pont Neuf was engraved for the Voyage Pittoresque de la France (see figure 2) (La Borde and others, 1781–1800). Girtin copied at least five watercolours from this source, and it is therefore likely that he knew this print of the Pont Neuf. However, if he based his view on the French prototype, he chose to respond to it by creating a very different foreground, so that, in stark contrast to the crowds of working men and women that populate the same area, Girtin created a more orderly scene in which elegantly dressed couples promenade, flanked by a troupe of well-turned-out cavalry. The latter was no doubt a reference to a nation on a war footing, but in no way could it have been construed as being critical of the French, and Girtin’s views of the Parisian quays are noticeably more refined than those found in the Voyage Pittoresque. The finished aquatints are, it should be noted, inscribed in both French and English, and there is no doubt that the Girtin brothers had hopes of selling prints to the French market, though this ambition was to come to nothing as hostilities between the two countries resumed a short time after the artist’s death.


The Pont Neuf and the Mint: Pencil Study for Plate Eight of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’



The Pont Neuf and the Mint: Pencil Study for Plate Eight of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 A list of subscribers is included in John Girtin’s account of the income he received from the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with the expenses incurred in completing the project. They are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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