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

A Circular Temple on a Cliff Overlooking a Lake

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0765: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Circular Temple on a Cliff Overlooking a Lake, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 19.2 × 23.9 cm, 7 ½ × 9 ⅜ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 62 (D36475).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • A Circular Temple on a Cliff Overlooking a Lake
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
19.2 × 23.9 cm, 7 ½ × 9 ⅜ in
Mount Dimensions
36.3 × 49.5 cm, 14 ¼ × 19 ½ in
Part of
Object Type
Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Unidentified Landscape; Lake Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 78 as ‘A book containing 62 interesting sketches in the neighbourhood of Rome and Naples, by Turner, in Indian ink and blue’; bought by Thomas Griffith on behalf of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £21; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1230 as 'Castle on hill, beside lake' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 09/09/2022)

About this Work

This unidentified view featuring a circular temple on a cliff is mounted in an album of watercolours bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 78). The sixty-four drawings were the outcome of a unique collaboration between Girtin and Turner working together at Monro’s London home at the Adelphi. Here the artists 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’ and other artists, amateur and professional, either from Monro’s collection or lent for the purpose. As the two young artists later recalled, Girtin generally ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’, which may account for the generally monochrome appearance of the works, 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

The subject of this view has not been identified, despite considerable efforts, and neither has a source been found amongst the compositions of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), nor, indeed, of any of the numerous British artists, amateur and professional, working in Italy at this date. The circular building on a cliff resembles the so-called Temple of the Sybil at Tivoli, but the setting is clearly very different from that depicted in views such as TG0589 or TG0591, and it may be that the work is at least partly an invention.

Unlike the majority of the works selected by Monro for mounting in albums, the quality of this work is poor. The monochrome washes are dull and lifeless, and the pencil work is perfunctory and lacking any of the inventiveness that characterises Girtin’s best efforts. Just enough of the pencil work passes muster to suggest that Girtin was involved in its production, albeit at the most functional level, and perhaps the poor standard of the washes can be accounted for by the fact that the work was simply not finished. Is it too charitable to suggest that time caught up with Turner and that a drawing left incomplete at the end of a night’s work was not taken up again the following week? Therefore, variations in the quality of Monro School works, which can be very great, do not always mean that we should attribute them to lesser artists: the amount of labour that Turner and Girtin were able to invest in a work was no doubt crucial to its success.

1794 - 1797

Tivoli: ‘The Temple of the Sibyl’, Seen from Below


1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The River Aniene, with ‘The Temple of the Sibyl’ Seen Above


by Greg Smith


  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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