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Works Thomas Girtin and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner

Unidentified Medieval Ruins, with Agricultural Buildings

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0766: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), Unidentified Medieval Ruins, with Agricultural Buildings, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 18.2 × 24.4 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ⅝ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIV, 9 (D36486).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
  • Unidentified Medieval Ruins, with Agricultural Buildings
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
18.2 × 24.4 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ⅝ in
Mount Dimensions
36.8 × 48 cm, 14 ½ × 18 ⅞ in
Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Copy from an Unknown Source; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Unidentified Topographical View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 79 as ‘Twenty-six sketches in Switzerland and Italy, by Turner, in blue and Indian ink, in a scrap-book’; bought by Thomas Griffith for Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £10 10s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.790, as ’Wingfield Manor, Derbyshire (early)’


Ruskin, Works, vol.13, p.641 as 'Wingfield Manor, Derbyshire (early)' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1232 as '"Ruins"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'Barns and Sheds beside a Ruined Wall with Gothic Windows' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 09/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of unidentified Gothic ruins is mounted in an album of watercolours of Swiss and Italian subjects that was bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 79). The drawing is the sole British subject in the album and it was presumably added at a later date as a replacement for another drawing, though it is not clear when this happened or whether Monro himself was responsible. However, there is no doubt that it was produced at Monro’s home, where Turner and Girtin were employed across three winters, probably between 1794 and 1797 to copy ‘the outlines or unfinished drawings of’ principally John Robert Cozens (1752–97), but other artists too, including Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). The ‘finished drawings’ they were commissioned to produce were the result of a strict division of labour: ‘Girtin drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. As the young artists reported to the diarist Joseph Farington, ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’ with Turner receiving ‘3s. 6d each night. – Girtin did not say what He had’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798).1 The outcome of their joint labours was substantial, amounting to several hundred drawings, the majority of which, unlike this work, were inscribed with the location.

Identifying the source for this landscape is not helped by uncertainty over its subject. Despite extensive research, it has not been possible to establish the identity of the fourteenth-century ruins, which have almost been submerged by humble agricultural buildings. The distinctive Kentish window tracery suggests that we are looking at a substantial monastic ruin somewhere in southern England, but none of the large number of sites depicted by Dayes tallies with the building shown here. It is possible that the source for the drawing lies elsewhere, however, and, as with a significant number of views of Gothic ruins produced for Monro, the most likely model is a lost sketch by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99). Girtin’s earliest significant patron provided numerous subjects that centred on the theme of the way in which once proud monuments had over time been pressed into humbler uses.

The possibility that Moore was the source for this work is enhanced by the attribution of the drawing. Thus, whilst the majority of the works bought by Turner at the 1833 sale of Monro’s collection were attributed to him alone, this work displays many of Girtin’s stylistic traits. As with the Monro School works listed as being by both artists, the pencil work is consistent with Girtin’s distinctive and inventive touch, but the watercolour washes too appear to be by the same artist, and the drawing lacks signs of the clear division of labour that marks the bulk of the material produced at the patron’s house from other artists. In particular, the very fluid washes applied to the foreground buildings are more typical of Girtin’s style around 1796–97, where a second darker tone of grey is often added over a lighter ground to create a series of abstract patterns that have no clear descriptive function. Other stylistic traits that can be more readily associated with Girtin include the manner in which the windows are defined by leaving the paper untouched, and the same process is applied to the individual stones in the foreground, which resemble the effect seen in contemporary watercolours such as The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey (TG0268) as well as other Monro School subjects that appear to be by just Girtin, including the view of the Great Hall at Raglan Castle (TG0782).

(?) 1795

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey


1794 - 1797

Raglan Castle: The Great Hall


by Greg Smith


  1. 1 The full diary entry, giving crucial details of the artists’ work at Monro’s house, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1798 – Item 2).

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