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Works Thomas Girtin

The Palace and Village of Choisy from the Banks of the Seine: Pencil Study for Plate Fourteen of Picturesque Views in Paris


Primary Image: TG1882: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Palace and Village of Choisy from the Banks of the Seine: Pencil Study for Plate Fourteen of 'Picturesque Views in Paris', 1802, graphite on laid paper, 14.5 × 45.6 cm, 5 ¾ × 18 in. British Museum, London (1868,0328.356).

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 Palace and Village of Choisi from the Banks of the Seine, 4 August 1802, 15.1 × 45.7 cm, 5 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ × 18 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.20223).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Palace and Village of Choisy from the Banks of the Seine: Pencil Study for Plate Fourteen of Picturesque Views in Paris
Medium and Support
Graphite on laid paper
14.5 × 45.6 cm, 5 ¾ × 18 in

‘The pallace now belongs to Mr Dotior / Didier by whom it has been in part demolished timber cut, &c.’ top left, by (?) Thomas Girtin; ‘View of the pallace and village of Choissy / from the banks of the Seine’ lower left, by (?) Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print; Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Panoramic Format; Paris and Environs; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
467 as 'The Palace and Village of Choisi'
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


Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.491; Binyon, 1898–1907, no.77

About this Work

This view of the palace and village of Choisy, seen from the banks of the river Seine, was drawn on the spot by Girtin early in 1802 in preparation for plate fourteen of his Picturesque Views in Paris (see print after TG1882a). Having completed a series of highly detailed panoramic views in the French capital, Girtin engaged the help of the playwright Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809) to ‘take views in the environs of Paris’ on a series of ‘short excursions’ to the sites ‘esteemed the most picturesque’ by contemporary artists (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.488).1 Holcroft’s account of their trips, published in 1804, provides the only direct evidence we have of Girtin’s sketching practice, including, in this case, the fact that unlike in the city views, for which the artist almost certainly employed a camera obscura, here he worked freehand. Holcroft thus records that ‘Girtin took a view, while I once more wandered beside the stream. His facility was great, and I was surprised at the dispatch with which he made his drawings: they were not finished, but all the objects were in their proper place, and sufficiently made out for him to accurately understand his own intentions’ (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.491). Although these works are different in character from the city sketches, the artist continued to use the same support, which, as the paper historian Peter Bower has noted, is a cream laid writing paper made by the Blauw and Briel company in Holland; this, he believes, was bought by Girtin in Paris, and may have been made twenty years earlier (Smith, 2002b, p.141; Bower, Report).

Girtin’s inscription on this drawing supplements the account of his sketching at Choisy given by Holcroft. The latter recorded that what had once been a ‘royal mansion’ was ‘now inhabited by a private person’ who, Girtin added in his note, was a Monsieur ‘Didier by whom it has been in part demolished timber cut, &c.’ (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.491). The palace had before the French Revolution been the favourite residence of Marie Antoinette (1755–93), and, as with other stops on their tour of the environs of Paris, Holcroft was keen to record the consequences of the recent violent political upheavals in France. It was presumably Holcroft who passed on the details of the fate of the palace, perhaps inspiring Girtin to include an image of a wagon, which appears to be loaded with the results of the depredations visited on the building and its estate.

The Palace and Village of Choisy, from the Banks of the Seine: Tracing for Plate Fourteen of 'Picturesque Views in Paris'

Girtin’s soft-ground etching (see the print after, above) was published separately from the finished aquatint, on 4 August 1802. To create this autograph print, the artist 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 is known to survive in this case.


The Palace and Village of Choisy from the Banks of the Seine: Colour Study for Plate Fourteen of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  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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