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Works Unknown Artist

The Transept of St Saviour’s, Southwark

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0222: An Unknown Artist, The Transept of St Saviour's, Southwark, 1795–96, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper, 45.1 × 34.9 cm, 17 ¾ × 13 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1173).

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

Unknown Artist
  • The Transept of St Saviour’s, Southwark
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper
45.1 × 34.9 cm, 17 ¾ × 13 ¾ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Cathedral View; London and Environs

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
135 as by Thomas Girtin; '1795–6'
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website


(?) James Moore (1762–99); ... Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1925 (stock no.583); Agnes Goodwin; bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1925, no.9


YCBA Online as by an 'unknown artist, eighteenth century-nineteenth century' (Accessed 05/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the crossing of St Saviour’s, Southwark, looking to the north transept, was confidently attributed to Girtin in the catalogue of his work co-authored by his great-grandson, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), and David Loshak. Girtin and Loshak also suggested that the watercolour was owned by Girtin’s first major patron, James Moore (1762–99), who, as a resident of Southwark, and a keen antiquarian known to have sketched in the church, might have been expected to have commissioned such a view from Girtin (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.152). The fact that Girtin was baptised in the church presumably helped to encourage his descendant to buy the work for his own collection. However, there is no evidence that the work was ever owned by Moore. Moreover, despite the fact that the watercolour has features in common with other church interiors by Girtin, including a view of Exeter Cathedral that was indeed commissioned by Moore (TG1256) and that also emphasises the awkward accommodation of modern ecclesiastical fittings within a Gothic fabric, the attribution of the work has not stood the test of time. Another church interior, showing St Stephen Walbrook (TG0014), illustrates that Girtin was capable of mastering the complex perspective of such a subject as early as 1790 and that, in comparison with the muddle shown here, he could use light both to articulate a space and to add a dramatic effect to the composition. Indeed, such is the manner in which the three main arches fail to resolve into a simple square crossing in this view of St Saviour’s, it is possible that it was actually produced by an amateur artist, rather than one of the many professionals, highly competent in the art of perspective, who specialised in architectural views at this date.

Despite the work’s aesthetic shortcomings, it still retains a documentary value as a record of the building’s early eighteenth-century pews, pulpit and galleries. The church of St Saviour was built as an Augustinian priory and was converted after the Dissolution of the Monasteries into a parish church, and it was only in 1905 that it became Southwark Cathedral. Restoration work had by that date swept away many of the later accretions that obscured the architectural merits of the late thirteenth-century transept shown here; indeed, the modern restored cathedral is barely recognisable from this angle.


The Interior of Exeter Cathedral, Looking from the Nave



London: Interior of St Stephen Walbrook, Looking East


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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