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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

The Ypres Tower, Rye

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0336: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799), The Ypres Tower, Rye, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 18.5 × 28 cm, 7 ¼ × 11 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Ypres Tower, Rye
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
18.5 × 28 cm, 7 ¼ × 11 in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Sussex View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


William George Rawlinson (1840–1928) (Armstrong, 1902); Christie’s, 27 March 1914, no.57 as by Thomas Girtin; bought by 'Palser', £33 12s; J. Palser & Sons; Francis Watkins Keen (c.1864–1933); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 10 November 1933, lot 156, as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Palser', £14 14s; ... P & D Colnaghi & Co.; ... Sotheby’s, 16 July 1987, lot 80 as by Thomas Girtin, £6,600; Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1992

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1992, no.26


Armstrong, 1902, p.275 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin showing the Ypres Tower in Rye in Sussex, like the other view from lower down its hilltop site (TG0342), has been attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at various times. The attribution to Turner is certainly understandable since, unlike the other two Rye subjects painted by Girtin, this watercolour did not come from the collection of Girtin’s earliest patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), and nor has a source for the work been found amongst Moore’s sketches. The watercolour is also uncharacteristic of a Moore commission in the way that the antiquarian subject is given a contemporary twist, with two prominent canon and a soldier added to the foreground in reference to the building’s symbolic defensive role in the contemporary war against France, four hundred years after it had been built to repel an earlier threat during the Hundred Years’ War with France. Nonetheless, it is possible that the work was copied from a lost drawing by Moore or from an unidentified source, and that would certainly account for the way that Girtin has characteristically misunderstood the structure of the building he depicts. In particular, the relationship between the tower and the adjacent building is fudged, and, in turn, foliage is used to mask uncertainty about where wall, roof and round tower meet.

That said, stylistic details such as the inventive patterns to be found throughout the masonry and, most notably, the lovely way the river Rother snakes into the distance strongly support the attribution to Girtin. The most likely scenario is that he based the watercolour on a lost sketch by Moore, but that it was produced for a patron or a potential customer who, not sharing Moore’s overriding interest in antiquarian subjects, might appreciate the contemporary reference. This would perhaps explain the rather incongruous canon in the foreground, which seem to have been copied from a model book, whilst the soldier might have been lifted straight from one of the prints by Edward Dayes (1763–1804) that Girtin coloured as a young apprentice in his studio (TG0063). Girtin’s foregrounds are invariably left featureless, and this one’s overt specificity sounds a false note compared to the simple, timeless staffage that populate the watercolours he made for Moore – as, for example, in another Sussex view, The East End of the Church of St Thomas, Winchelsea (TG0305).

1795 - 1796

The Ypres Tower, Rye



Third Regiment of Foot Guards, 1660: Officer and Sergeant


1793 - 1794

The East End of the Church of St Thomas, Winchelsea


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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