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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

The Ruined Gateway of Mettingham Castle

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0338: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), The Ruined Gateway of Mettingham Castle, 1794–95, graphite on wove paper, 20.7 × 13.6 cm, 8 ⅛ × 5 ⅝ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII, 27 (D36598).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Ruined Gateway of Mettingham Castle
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
20.7 × 13.6 cm, 8 ⅛ × 5 ⅝ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; East Anglia: Norfolk and Suffolk

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2017


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 'Part of ruined castle' by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This view of the ruined gateway of Mettingham Castle in Suffolk is one of forty or so outline drawings by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), many of which were bought at his posthumous sale by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) and are now therefore to be found in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The majority were copied by Girtin from the sketches of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and none of the drawings were made on the spot. The outlines, all conforming to Moore’s standard size of roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin, together with Turner, was employed at Monro’s home at the Adelphi to produce watercolour versions of the outlines of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), amongst others. The precise function of Girtin’s copies after the drawings of Moore and Dayes is not so clear, however. A significant number were used as the basis for small watercolours painted on card, measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), including fifteen or so that found a home in the Turner Bequest, and these may have been produced with a topographical publication in mind (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). In this case the watercolour, if it existed, has not been traced. That, in itself, does not explain why Monro came to own the larger pencil copies, however. In the absence of any documentary evidence, my hunch is that rather than being commissioned by Monro, the drawings were produced by Girtin for his own use as models for possible watercolour compositions – they all depict views of subjects he could not have seen by this date – and that he subsequently sold them to his patron.

The Ruined Gatehouse, Mettingam Castle

The source for Girtin’s pencil outline is likely to have been very similar to a drawing that Moore made on his tour of East Anglia in the summer of 1790 (see figure 1), and the same frontal view of the structure was reproduced as an aquatint – dated 29 August – in Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (Moore, 1792). Both of these images are in a landscape format, but Girtin no doubt adapted his patron’s composition to create an upright view, which enhances its dramatic impact by cutting out the formless structure to the left. He also took the opportunity to turn the angle of the tower slightly so that it looks less like a church tower. A watercolour of similar dimensions and showing the same vertical view of the ruined gateway was sold at auction in 2000 with an attribution to Edward Dayes (Christie's, South Kensington, 14 September 2000, lot 20 as ‘An Angler Before a Ruined Castle’).

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 (c.1749–1824) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Turner 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.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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