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Works Thomas Girtin after Charles-Louis Clérisseau

The Temple of Augustus at Pula in Istria

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG0896: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820), The Temple of Augustus at Pula in Istria, 1797–98, graphite, pen and ink and brush and ink on wove paper, 40.5 × 54.8 cm, 16 × 21 ⅝ in. British Museum, London (1878,1228.27).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Artist's source: Domenico Cunego (1727–1803), after Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820), etching and engraving, 'Temple of Pola in Istria' for Views of Antique Buildings and Famous Ruins in Italy, pl.13, 1760–67, 40.4 × 57.3 cm, 15 ⅞ × 22 ½ in. British Museum, London (1916,0325.3).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-1820)
  • The Temple of Augustus at Pula in Istria
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite, pen and ink and brush and ink on wove paper
40.5 × 54.8 cm, 16 × 21 ⅝ in

‘T Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin (the signature has been cut, suggesting that it once extended onto an original mount which has been lost)

Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work from a Known Source: Foreign Master
Subject Terms
Ancient Ruins

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
342 as 'Tempio di Pola'; '1799–1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


John Henderson (1764–1843); then by descent to John Henderson II (1797–1878) (lent to London, 1875); bequeathed to the Museum, 1878

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.122 as ’Drawing of a Roman Temple ... Drawn with a reed pen’; London, 2002, no.102


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.104 as 'A Ruined Temple'

About this Work

This view of the ruined Temple of Augustus at Pula in Istria, in modern Croatia, is based on an etching by Domenico Cunego (1727–1803) that, in turn, reproduced a composition by Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820) (see the source image above). The image, which forms a pair with another pen and ink drawing, Rome: The Temple of Saturn, Called the Temple of Concord (TG0893), follows Clérisseau’s original very closely, though Girtin cut the composition to the left and omitted a distracting tree. Otherwise he retained the complex and prominent contemporary genre scene, which plays itself out amongst the buildings that surround a temple that by the eighteenth century had been converted into a church, though this fact is not clear from either image. The Temple of Augustus, in the town known in Roman times as Pola, was the subject of a second image by Girtin (TG0886), this time made from an etching by the master of dramatic architectural scenes, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78). The two slightly different views make for a fascinating contrast of styles. Thus, whilst Girtin here works over a detailed pencil copy of the Clérisseau composition, reinforcing the lines in ink, in what may have been the slightly later version, he uses fluid washes of ink, added with a bravura despatch, to create a sketch that matches some of the bold freedom of Piranesi’s etching style.

Like its pair, which also employs a mix of brushwork with pen and ink to reinforce a detailed pencil drawing, this work comes from the collection of Girtin’s early patron John Henderson (1764–1843). Later versions of Clérisseau’s works by Girtin were made in watercolours for sale on the open market, but, as with as many as twenty or so copies after contemporaries and older masters commissioned by Henderson, this drawing was presumably made from a print in the patron’s collection. The majority of the resulting copies are in watercolours, so they follow the pattern of the bulk of the material produced by Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the home of another early collector, Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); namely, they provided the patron with a more finished version of material that he had access to, either as a sketch or as a reproductive print. The two pen and ink drawings under consideration here are rather different, since the outline, however complex, is still no more finished than its source. It may be that as with Dartford High Street (TG0843), the outline was conceived as the first stage in the production of a watercolour (TG0844). However, the more likely rationale behind the work’s production is that, as has been seen in other cases, Henderson appreciated Girtin’s sketches in their own right, and it appears that he commissioned such views as examples of the young artist’s expertise with the pencil, pen and brush, much as others collected the sketches of earlier revered practitioners. Overlaying images of the drawing and its source shows how close a copy of the similarly sized etching it is, but it also demonstrates that it was made freehand rather than being traced and there is still much to be admired in Girtin’s inventive and fluent use of line. The depiction of the ruined temple, in particular, provides an object lesson in how, in the hands of a fine draughtsman, a line in pencil or ink has the capacity to be both decorative and descriptive at the same time, and the drawing was presumably deemed to be deserving of a place in the connoisseur’s collection as an example of Girtin’s skills.

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support employed by Girtin as a white wove drawing paper, probably manufactured by James Whatman the Younger (1741–98) (Smith, 2002b, p.129; Bower, Report). It is the same support that is employed in other Henderson commissions, including this work’s pair, Rome: The Temple of Saturn, Called the Temple of Concord.

Image Overlay

1796 - 1797

Rome: The Temple of Saturn, Called the Temple of Concord


1797 - 1798

The Temple of Augustus at Pula in Istria


1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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