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Works Thomas Girtin

The Banks of the Marne below the Bridge at Charenton: Colour Study for Plate Twenty of Picturesque Views in Paris


Print after: Richard Banks Harraden (1778–1862), aquatint, and Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), soft-ground etching, 'On the Banks of the MARNE below the Bridge AT CHARENTON' for Picturesque Views in Paris, pl.20, 1 January 1803, 14.4 x 24.4 cm, 5 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (B1977.14.20233).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Banks of the Marne below the Bridge at Charenton: Colour Study for Plate Twenty of Picturesque Views in Paris
Medium and Support
Watercolour over soft-ground etching on paper
14.4 × 24.4 cm, 5 ⅝ × 9 ⅝ in
Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; Paris and Environs; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford (1788–1861); then by descent to Hastings William Sackville Russell, 12th Duke of Bedford (1888–1953); his sale, Christie's, 19 January 1951, lot 7 (18 hand-coloured prints); bought by the Fine Art Society, 480 gns; bought by the Friends of the Art Museums of Israel

Exhibition History

London, 1955, no.58

About this Work

This untraced view of the picturesque old bridge over the river Marne at Charenton, east of Paris, was coloured by Girtin working over a soft-ground etching (see print after TG1887), which, in turn, reproduced an on-the-spot pencil drawing made in early 1802 (TG1887). Girtin added the washes for the guidance of Richard Harraden (1778–1862), who was employed to aquatint the etched plate, fleshing out the lines of the etching with tones that approximate to those of a monochrome sketch (see the print after, above). The completed print was published six weeks after the artist’s death as plate twenty of Twenty of the Most Picturesque Views in Paris and Its Environs by his widow, Mary Ann Girtin (1781–1843), and his brother, John Girtin (1773–1821), the latter of whom, in addition to financing the project, took over the final stages of its production. The twenty prints were finally published together in an edition of around 130, with the etchings selling for four guineas, the aquatints for five guineas and a set of proof impressions six guineas (Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.8; Smith, 2017–18, pp.32–35). The large prints were very much a luxury product, so it is somewhat surprising that the list of subscribers includes, in addition to many of the best known of Girtin’s patrons, a significant number of artists, amongst which are the names of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), Sir William Beechey (1753–1839), Benjamin West (1738–1820), John Hoppner (1758–1810) and Henry Edridge (1768–1821) as well as many of Girtin’s fellow watercolourists, such as John Varley (1778–1842) and John Glover (1767–1849) (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1

The Banks of the Marne below the Bridge at Charenton: Presentation Drawing for the Earl of Essex of Plate Twenty of 'Picturesque Views in Paris'

Girtin produced a second set of hand-coloured impressions of his etchings, which were carefully mounted and sold by John Girtin to the dedicatee of the publication, George Capel-Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex (1757–1839), for £50 (see figure 1). The two sets have been the cause of considerable confusion, but, following the discovery of new evidence about John Girtin’s role in the project, it has been possible to distinguish their very different functions (Smith, 2017–18, pp.32–35). The set sold to the earl is thus complete, and it is carefully rendered and presented so as to resemble Girtin’s finished watercolours. In contrast, the group of eighteen hand-coloured etchings, which were once owned by Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford (1788–1861), are very much working drawings; indeed, in some cases they have been cut down, presumably to disguise their careless treatment whilst in the studios of the four men who were employed by the Girtin brothers to add aquatint to the plates. The practical function of such drawings is also evident in the fact that, in addition to providing instructions to the professional aquatinter regarding the distribution of light and shade and the basic form of the sky and the reflections in the water, they often include Girtin’s amendments.


The Banks of the Marne below the Bridge at Charenton: Pencil Study for Plate Twenty of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’



The Banks of the Marne below the Bridge at Charenton: Pencil Study for Plate Twenty of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 A list of subscribers is included in John Girtin’s account of the income he received from the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with the expenses incurred in completing the project. They are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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