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Paul Sandby (1731-1809) - The Great Gate of St Augustine's Monastery, Canterbury
  • Paul Sandby (1731-1809) - The Great Gate of St Augustine's Monastery, Canterbury

    This large and detailed watercolour depicts the Great Gate of St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury. It dates from 1309 and was the main entrance to the monastic compound in the city. The monastery itself was founded in 598 by St Augustine of Canterbury, who was sent by Pope Gregory to convert the English people to Christianity. With the Dissolution of the monastery's in 1541, the Abbey was destroyed leaving only remnants of its past including the Gate depicted in this composition.


    Sandby produced various drawings of Canterbury including a largescale watercolour in 1782 titled 'The Cemetery Gate of St Augustine’s Monastery Canterbury' which is in the Tate's collection. [1] Furthermore, a similar composition to our work was sold at Christie's in 2018 as 'Circle of Sandby' with the artist clearly having access to an original. [2] The Christie's work was believed to have been painted by Colonel Joshua Gosselin (1739-1813), who had been a pupil of Sandby's. It is a closer view than ours and was clearly painted by a different hand. The general structure of the two works is similar, although Gosselin has added different figures to the foreground compared to our work. Gosselin's work is most likely based on Sandby's etching of the same scene dated 1782 which has the same figures. [3] Our work is a slightly different composition by Sandby with a man on a wheelbarrow present in the bottom right hand corner.


    Medium: watercolour paper (with WHATMAN watermark), inscribed l.r. 'The Great Gate of St Augustine Monastery Canterbury', 27.5 x 45.5 cm, mounted. Inscribed 'Paul Sandby' on mount, along with further inscriptions to Sandby verso.


    Provenance: Private collection, Australia.




    [1] Paul Sandby, 'The Cemetery Gate of St Augustine’s Monastery Canterbury', 1782, watercolour on paper, 32 x 51 cm, Tate collection: N01856.


    [2] Christie's Old Master & British Drawings & Watercolours sale, 3rd July 2018, lot 126.


    [3] See the example of the etching at the British Museum (1904,0819.734). Sandby produced three aquatints of Canterbury; he exhibited the other two, of Georges Gate and the Great Gate of the monastery at the Royal Academy, London in 1786 (nos. 576 and 584 respectively).


    Condition report: some fading to the watercolour and scattered foxing (please see photographs). The mount also has some damage and foxing.

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