Anthony Van Dyck, portrait painter to King Charles I drew five views of Rye, two of which are of the Ypres Tower. Views No.1 (in the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge) and No.2 (in the Rotterdam Museum) were drawn in the 1630’s. No.1 also shows the Gungarden Gate, built in 1545 and pulled down in 1735; but I am at a loss to know why the roof is shown hipped, but in No.2 the roof is gable-ended! The suggestion that No.1 was drawn from the sea is most unlikely and unnecessary.
Two other 17th. Century artists, both from Amsterdam, drew views of Rye. Jacob Esselens and William Schellinks; these views are to be found in the ‘Van Der Hem’ atlas in the National Library, Vienna, but but do not include close-ups of the Ypres Tower.
In the 18th. century two very talented artists drew or painted the Ypres Tower, a young J. M. W. Turner drew No.3 from almost the same spot as Van Dyck but some 150 years later. Same lean-to building in the foreground with tiled roof; thatch of course had been banned in the town as a fire precaution in the 16th. century (1561).
View No.4 is by Turner’s contemporary Thomas Girtin, who unfortunately died young. Turner thought very highly of his work, said ” If Tom Girtin had lived I should have starved.” Could the cannons be those captured at the battle of Camerldown or the old ones they replaced? Both Turner and Girtin were encouraged in their early days by Dr. Thomas Monro for whom they worked at Adelphi Terrace, London.
View No.5 is by another 18th. century artist Samuel Hieronymous Grimm, a Swiss, who was engaged to draw Sussex antiquities for Sir William Burrell for a projected History of Sussex.
The drawing is from a similar angle to Girtins and was drawn in 1784; it is now in the British Library collection.
“Rye’s Own” thanks Frank Palmer for this illuminating article and the copies of the works of art that accompany it. Frank is one of Rye’s more meticulous historians and is a fund of accurate information.
Rye’s Own May 2005
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