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Works Thomas Girtin

A Cleric Preaching from a Pulpit


Primary Image: TG1903: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Cleric Preaching from a Pulpit, 1802, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on paper, 18.5 × 15 cm, 7 ¼ × 6 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Cleric Preaching from a Pulpit
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on paper
18.5 × 15 cm, 7 ¼ × 6 in

‘gone to St. Cloud - the Keys are in the pocket of my / Blk Silk waistcoat’ along the right edge, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Copy from an Unknown Source
Subject Terms
Figure Study

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Bought by Leonard Gordon Duke (1890-1971) (D2091) from a shop in Godalming as 'unattributed', 1s; ... Sotheby’s, 8 April 1998, lot 14, £3,680

About this Work

Although there is often a humorous element to Girtin’s figures, nowhere else does he come as close to caricature as in this study of a cross-eyed cleric. The watercolour was produced on a sheet of paper that was also used for a message from Girtin that reads: ‘gone to St. Cloud – the Keys are in the pocket of my Blk Silk waistcoat’. This may have been addressed to John Samuel Hayward (1778–1822), with whom Girtin seems to have shared lodgings, and it refers specifically to one of the excursions that the artist undertook in the company of Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809) to ‘take views in the environs of Paris’ (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.488).1 According to Holcroft’s detailed account, this excursion to some of the sites ‘esteemed the most picturesque’ by contemporary artists took two days and included, in addition to the picturesque riverside location of Saint-Cloud, the formal gardens and parks at Versailles and St Germain-en-Laye. The expedition resulted in sketches that formed the basis for seven plates for the Picturesque Views in Paris, including Saint-Cloud and Mont Calvaire, Taken from the Pont de Sèvres (TG1886a). The inscription certainly fixes the subject as French, but the study is so uncharacteristic of Girtin’s practice that were it not for the content of the message, it is unlikely that the work would have been attributed to the artist. I suspect that the explanation for such an unusual study is that the drawing was actually copied from a satirical print; certainly, it is not possible to imagine how else it might have been produced since sketching in church in watercolours was hardly a practical option in post-revolutionary France. 

The reverse of the sheet features a study of foliage in watercolour, pencil, and pen and ink. Sadly, no image of it is known. 


Saint-Cloud and Mont Calvaire, Taken from the Pont de Sèvres: Pencil Study for Plate Eighteen of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’


by Greg Smith


  1. 1 Holcroft’s unique eye-witness account of Girtin at work during the excursions they undertook in and around Paris in the early spring of 1802, published in the second volume of Travels from Hamburg, through Westphalia, Holland, and the Netherlands, to Paris, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1802 – Item 1).

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