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Works Thomas Girtin

The Louvre and the Pont Royal, Taken from the Pont Neuf: Pencil Study for Plate Two of Picturesque Views in Paris


Primary Image: TG1864: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Louvre and the Pont Royal, Taken from the Pont Neuf: Pencil Study for Plate Two of 'Picturesque Views in Paris', 1802, graphite on two pieces of laid paper, 16.3 × 20.3 cm and 16.3 × 24 cm (16.3 × 44.3 cm); 6 ⅜ × 8 in and 6 ⅜ × 9 ½ in (6 ⅜ × 17 ½ in). British Museum, London (1868,0328.345).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Print after: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), soft-ground etching, The Louvre and the Pont Royal, Taken from Pont Neuf, 20 June 1802, 17.5 × 45.1 cm, 6 ⅞ × 17 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.20199).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Louvre and the Pont Royal, Taken from the Pont Neuf: Pencil Study for Plate Two of Picturesque Views in Paris
Medium and Support
Graphite on two pieces of laid paper
16.3 × 20.3 cm and 16.3 × 24 cm (16.3 × 44.3 cm); 6 ⅜ × 8 in and 6 ⅜ × 9 ½ in (6 ⅜ × 17 ½ in)
Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print; Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; Panoramic Format; Paris and Environs; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
460 as 'The Louvre and Bridge of the Tuileries, from Pont-Neuf'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


John Girtin (1773–1821); bought by John Jackson (d.1828); his posthumous sale, Foster’s, 24 April 1828, lot 321; bought by 'Tiffin'; ... 'Colnaghi'; bought from them by the Museum, 1868


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.75; Halliday, 1983, pp.290–91

About this Work

This view of the Louvre and the Pont Royal, taken looking along the river Seine from the Pont Neuf, was drawn on the spot by Girtin early in 1802 in preparation for plate two of his Picturesque Views in Paris (see print after TG1864a). Frustrated in his attempt to show his London panorama in Paris, Girtin took up the suggestion of his patron Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827) and made a series of detailed pencil drawings of the French capital, which he reproduced as soft-ground etchings on his return to London in May, though they were not finally published until after his death, with the addition of aquatint to create tones similar to those in his watercolours (Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.8; Smith, 2017–18, pp.32–35). The brief cessation of hostilities between Britain and France, known as the Peace of Amiens, attracted thousands of British visitors to Paris, and so Girtin’s prints were targeted at a tourist audience keen for souvenirs of their trip and who prized carefully rendered details of the city’s buildings and inhabitants. To ensure such fidelity, Girtin appears to have employed a camera obscura for about half of the pencil drawings, and the modest size of this instrument required him to use small pieces of paper from which he assembled his mostly panoramic images of the scenery along the river Seine. All but one of the supports used by Girtin in the twenty-one Paris sketches he produced has been identified by the paper historian Peter Bower as the same cream laid writing paper, made by the Blauw and Briel company in Holland (Smith, 2002b, p.141; Bower, Report). This, he believes, was bought by Girtin in Paris, and it may have been made up to twenty years earlier. 

The Louvre and the Pont Royal, Taken from the Pont Neuf: Tracing for Plate Two of 'Picturesque Views in Paris'

Girtin’s soft-ground etching (see the print after, above) was published separately from the finished aquatint, on 20 June 1802. To create this autograph print, the artist would have first traced his own drawing, reversing the image in the process (see figure 1) and then, using the tracing as a template, impressed the lines onto an etching plate coated in a tacky ground of an acid-resistant mix. Lifting the tracing and taking away the ground where the lines had been pushed in, he would then have immersed the plate in acid, which would have bitten into the unprotected areas. Cleaned up, the plate, with the etched lines now according with the direction of Girtin’s original drawing, could then be used to print from. Such a complex procedure employed by a novice printmaker like Girtin no doubt required a number of proof stages, though none seem to have survived in this case. 

The view of the monumental river front of the Louvre Palace was taken from the Pont Neuf, one of thirteen scenes that use the bridges of Paris as a viewpoint. This gives the prints a thematic unity, with a foreground of water frequently giving way to the main architectural subject appearing at an oblique angle. The Pont Royal, in the distance, was renamed following the French Revolution as the Pont Tuileries, and the latter is used in the title that appears on Girtin’s final aquatint. The view from the Pont Neuf was a popular one with topographical artists, as it gave a good sense of the sheer scale of the Louvre as it had evolved over the centuries. Even amongst British visitors, who were apt to find fault with the French capital in comparison with London, there was a general consensus that the public buildings of Paris made for a more impressive spectacle, and nowhere was this more evident than in the ‘quays … along the Seine, from the Pont Neuf’, which ‘are so great an embellishment to the city’ (Plumptre, 1810, p.35). Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809), who accompanied Girtin on his travels around the environs of the city, described the view from the Pont Neuf in glowing terms, and it may even be that he had Girtin’s print in front of him as he wrote about the ‘spacious view’ that displayed ‘the magnificence of the various buildings on each side, the palaces and their remote departing gardens, the boats, the bridges, the mingled effect of water and architecture, and the moving living picture he beholds’ (Holcroft, 1804, vol.1, p.178).


The Louvre and the Pont Royal, Taken from the Pont Neuf: Colour Study for Plate Two of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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