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Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, 1740–1812
A Philosopher in a Moonlit Churchyard
Former Title(s):
Visitor to a Moonlit Churchyard
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
34 x 27 inches (86.4 x 68.6 cm), Frame: 40 5/8 x 35 x 2 3/4 inches (103.2 x 88.9 x 7 cm)

Label on verso, upper center: “sign. | P.I.Loutherbourg1790”; upper center: "L 0644"

Signed and dated, lower left to lower center: "P.[?]De Loutherbourgh 1790"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
arch | bust | cemetery | churchyard | clouds | costume | death | fresco | genre subject | Gothic (Medieval) | grave | landscape | man | night | Picturesque, the | relief (sculpture) | Romantic | ruins | sarcophagus | skulls (skeleton components) | Sublime, the | theater | urn
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

This remarkable romantic painting may illustrate part of a poem by Edward Young, The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality (1742–45). It represents a young man standing beside an open grave among the ruins of Tintern Abbey, with its north transept identifiable in the background. He pauses to meditate on death and resurrection—the latter emphasized by a painting of the risen Christ that survives in an arched recess on the left. A sundial above the sculpture casts a moonlight shadow, showing that the time depicted is one o’clock in the morning.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

This remarkable Romantic picture represents a young man standing at night among Gothic ruins, beside an open grave. He pauses to meditate on death and resurrection-the latter emphasized by a fresco of the risen Christ that survives in an arched recess on the left. It may illustrate part of a poem by Edward Young, "The Complaint, or, Night Thoughts" (1742-45), and was possibly intended for a series of prints, The British Poets (1788-99), envisaged by the publisher Thomas Macklin (1752/53-1800), for whose Bible project Loutherbourg contributed the apocalyptic painting to your left. As in his topographical view of the mist-covered Snowdon from Capel Curig nearby, Loutherbourg here points his public toward the powerful visual framework of the Picturesque, as well as the experience of the Sublime. Unlike Snowdon, however, the Visitor inhabits an entirely synthetic, capriccio-like setting built of carefully chosen motifs such as the sarcophagus lid in the foreground, and theater set-like architectural elements.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005

It's Alive! Frankenstein at 200 (The Morgan Library & Museum, 2018-10-12 - 2019-01-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Critique of Reason : Romantic Art, 1760–1860 (Yale University Art Gallery, 2015-03-06 - 2015-07-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Philippe - Jacques de Loutherbourg (1740 - 1812) (Musee de Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg, 2012-11-17 - 2013-02-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Gothic Nightmares - Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination (Tate Britain, 2006-02-15 - 2006-05-01) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Ruskin - Past: Present: Future (Yale Center for British Art, 2000-01-20 - 2000-02-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Nottingham Festival Exhibition (Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, 1988-05-29 - 1988-07-24) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

John Barrell, Painting and the politics of culture : new essays on British art, 1700-1850, Claredon Press, Oxford, p. 227, fig. 7.23, N6766 P35 1992 [ORBIS]

Kathryn Rebecca Barush, Art and the sacred journey in Britain, 1790-1850, Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), London, New York, 2016, pp. 12, 228-29, fig. 5.8, N72.R4 B37 2016 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 152, 153, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Suzy Halimi, La nuit dans l'Angleterre des Lumières, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, 2008, p. 155, fig. 1, PN56.N5 N855 2008 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Louis Hawes, Ruins in British romantic art from Wilson to Turner, Nottingham Castle Museum. , Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Nottingham [England], 1988, p. 18, no. 5, N8237.8 R8 R85 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Rüdiger Joppien, A Visitor to a Ruined Churchyard - a newly discovered painting by P. J. de Loutherbourg, Burlington Magazine, vol. 118, May 1976, pp. 294--99, 301, N1 B87 v. 118 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Also avaiable online : JSTOR [YCBA]

William Laffan, Thomas Roberts, landscape and patronage in eighteenth-century Ireland. , Churchill House Press, Tralee, 2009, p. 262, fig. 216, NJ18.R544 L35 2009 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Olivier Lefeuvre, Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg : 1740-1812, , Arthena, Paris, 2012, pp. 90. 92, 103, 178, 221, 281-82, 311-12, cat. no. 224, NJ18.L928 A12 L44 2012 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Musee des Beaux Arts de Strasbourg, Loutherbourg ( Strasbourg, 1740 - Londres, 1812 ):, tourments et chime`res : livret de l'exposition , Musees de la vie de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, 2012, pp. 8-9, 14, fig. 20, V 1392 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Martin Myrone, Gothic nightmares, Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic imagination , Tate Publishing, London New York, 2006, p. 108, no. 61, ND467.5 G68 M97 2006 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

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