For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin after Tavernier de Jonquières

The Porte Chapelle, Compiègne

(?) 1802

Primary Image: TG1909: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Tavernier de Jonquières, The Porte Chapelle, Compiègne, (?) 1802, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 1516. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (16-1878).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: Claude Fessard (1740–c.1803), after Tavernier de Jonquières (unknown dates), engraving 'Vue de la Porte Chapelle de Compiègne' for Voyage Pittoresque de la France, vol.6, 'Compiegne, no.12', 1787, 17.4 × 24 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ½ in. British Library, London.

Photo courtesy of The British Library Board (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Tavernier de Jonquières (unknown dates-)
  • The Porte Chapelle, Compiègne
(?) 1802
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
32.4 × 23.6 cm, 12 ¾ × 9 ¼ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary Foreign
Subject Terms
French View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Edward S. Palmer; the sale of his stock, Christie's, 26 January 1878, lot 488 as 'At Posillipo'; bought by the Museum, 1878

Exhibition History

USA, 1966–67, no.43; Compiègne, 2008, no.13


V&A, 1927, p.231 as 'Entrance to the "Grotto", Posilipo, Italy'; Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.150 as 'Porte Chapelle, Compiègne'; Smith, 2017–18, p.40; V&A Collections Online as 'Entrance to the "Grotto", Posilipo' (Accessed 21/09/2022)

About this Work

The attribution to Girtin of this watercolour, which was once bizarrely known as ‘Entrance to the “Grotto” Posilipo, Italy’, was questioned by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), who thought that it was by John Henderson (1764–1843) (Girtin Archive, 14). However, although the quality is not high, with out-of-scale figures and a less than secure perspective in the building, it can now be attributed to Girtin with some certainty, particularly as the identity of the site and the work’s source have been discovered. Girtin certainly did not visit Compiègne during his stay in France in the winter and early spring of 1801–2 and, instead, as with another Compiègne subject, showing the church of Saint Corneille (TG1908), he based his watercolour on a print after Tavernier de Jonquières (unknown dates) that was included in Voyage Pittoresque de la France (see the source image above) (La Borde and others, 1781–1800). The artist may even have bought the engraving during his trip to Paris, as amongst the items recorded in the studio at his death were ‘Books of French prints of … Landscapes unbound’ (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804; Smith, 2017–18, p.35).1 Other watercolours made from prints from the Voyage Pittoresque include Paris: The Ruins of the Roman Baths, Hôtel de Cluny (TG1896 and TG1897), Lyon Cathedral (TG1907) and An Interior View of the Nave of Laon Cathedral (TG1911), which constitute a distinctive and coherent group of architectural views. Although none of the works were made from on-the spot sketches, it still cannot be said for sure whether they were produced on the artist’s return to England or whether they were painted in France. Indeed, the fact that they were created from earlier prints actually means that we cannot rule out what would once have been an unthinkable alternative – namely, that this and some of the other French views may even predate the artist’s trip. 

As with the other copies of prints from the Voyage Pittoresque, Girtin adapted – and improved upon – the original composition. Radically cropping the scene to the right and left brings the structure closer to the viewer, and, by including more of the sky, Girtin changed the proportions of the scene so that the more panoramic original is (uncharacteristically for the artist) transformed into a vertical composition, helping to give the gateway a greater sense of monumentality. The figures too are reduced in number and are Girtin’s own invention. 

(?) 1802

The Church of Saint Corneille at Compiègne


(?) 1802

Paris: The Ruins of the Roman Baths, Hôtel de Cluny


(?) 1802

Paris: The Ruins of the Roman Baths, Hôtel de Cluny


(?) 1802

Lyon Cathedral


(?) 1802

An Interior View of the Nave of Laon Cathedral


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The financial records of John Girtin covering the income he received from the sale of the contents of his brother's studio, as well as from the  Eidometropolis and the twenty aquatints of the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with a detailed account of the expenses from both projects, are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.