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Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after John Robert Cozens

A Building amongst Trees, on the River Arno near Florence

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0750: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Building amongst Trees, on the River Arno near Florence, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 18 × 23.5 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ¼ in. Sphinx Fine Art, London.

Photo courtesy of Sphinx Fine Art (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • A Building amongst Trees, on the River Arno near Florence
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
18 × 23.5 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Tuscany

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Sir Augustus Moore Daniel (1866–1950); Thos. Agnew & Sons; ... the Leicester Galleries, London; H. M. Langton; Spink & Son Ltd, London, 1976; Bonhams, 23 September 2008, lot 39 as 'Arno, a villa among trees & bushes' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, £15,600; Art Solution; Sphinx Fine Art, London

Exhibition History

Leicester Galleries, 1951, no.8 as ’Italian villa with trees’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Spink’s, London, 1976, no.108 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This view of a building, probably a farmhouse, on the river Arno east of Florence, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1). It was produced at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), where Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) were employed across three winters, probably between 1794 and 1797, to make ‘finished drawings’ from the ‘Copies’ of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings of Cozens’. The majority of the resulting watercolours saw the two artists engaged in a unique collaboration; as they later recalled, Girtin ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’ and, as the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) reported, Turner received ‘3s. 6d each night’, though ‘Girtin did not say what He had’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798).1

A Villa amongst Trees, on the River Arno

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed and dated ‘Arno – Septr 25’, meaning that he observed the building during an excursion from the city that he undertook by boat during the return leg of his second trip to the Continent, in the autumn of 1783 (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.395). The sketch is found in the sixth of the seven sketchbooks that are associated with a visit that began with a journey to Naples in the company of his patron William Beckford (1760–1844). It is unlikely that the Monro School watercolour was copied directly from the sketch by Cozens, however. It would have been uncharacteristic of Beckford to have lent the sketchbooks to Monro, and the existence of a large number of tracings of their contents by Cozens himself suggests that the patron, rather than the artist, retained the books. An album put together by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827), now in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, includes more than seventy tracings from on-the-spot drawings in the first three of the sketchbooks, and these provided the basis for at least thirty Monro School works. There are only five tracings from the next three books, but there is no reason to think that others did not exist, and it was presumably from these lost copies by Cozens that as many as thirty-five more watercolours were produced by Girtin and Turner, including this and two other views made on the excursion from Florence (TG0749 and TG0751). The fact that the Monro School copies never follow either the shading or the distribution of light seen in the on-the-spot sketches, though they always replicate the basic outlines, further suggests that Girtin and Turner generally worked from a tracing of the sketchbook view, and surely that was the case here as well.

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were described as being by Turner alone, and this generally remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case, some of the pencil work remains evident in areas where Turner has left the paper untouched to create highlights, and there is just enough of this visible to suggest that Girtin was involved in the view’s production, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from a Cozens drawing; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical practice of replication and produce something that approximates to a finished work.

1794 - 1797

A Villa on the Banks of the River Arno, Known as ‘The Villa Salviati’


1794 - 1797

A View on the River Arno, with a Tower on a Hill


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The full diary entry, giving crucial details of the artists’ work at Monro’s house, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1798 – Item 2).

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