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

A Distant View of Ronciglione, near Lake Vico

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0620: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Distant View of Ronciglione, near Lake Vico, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 18.3 × 24 cm, 7 ¼ × 9 ½ in. Private Collection, untraced.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Ronciglione, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 18.1 × 25.7 cm, 7 ⅛ × 10 ⅛ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4530).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • A Distant View of Ronciglione, near Lake Vico
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
18.3 × 24 cm, 7 ¼ × 9 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2006


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 27 June 1833, lot 90 as 'Monte Circio, Romiglione, and the road to the Scuola di Virgilio (3)' by 'Turner'; bought by 'May', £6 6s; ... Sir Peter Braithwaite; then by descent to a Lady; her sale, Sotheby’s, 7 June 2006, lot 391 as 'Ariccia, near Rome' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £11,400

About this Work

This distant view of the hill town of Ronciglione in Lazio, north of Rome, was copied from a composition probably by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above). 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

Monro’s posthumous sale of 1833 contained only twenty or so sketches by Cozens, so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour, a simple outline inscribed ‘Ronciglione’, was almost certainly purchased at the sale of ‘Mr COZENS’ in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827). As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection, now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). The outline on which this watercolour is based is part of a group of sketches that seem to have been made by Cozens during his stay in and around Rome from November 1776 through to March 1779, though, as Sloan has pointed out, it is also possible that they were traced from drawings made by his father, Alexander Cozens (1717–86), on his earlier trip to Italy (Sloan, 1986, pp.127–28). Certainly, none of the compositions in this group of drawings were realised as watercolours by John, and this possibly encouraged Monro to commission a finished work for his collection. This view, which has hitherto been titled ‘Ariccia, near Rome’, shows the hill town of Ronciglione from the south, with the dome of the cathedral flanked by the bell tower.

Like the bulk of the Monro School copies sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, this work was attributed to Turner alone, and, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23), which established the joint authorship of many of the works in the Turner Bequest, it was still listed as by Turner in 2006 when it was sold at auction. However, the opportunity the sale provided to study the drawing at first hand revealed that, although the foreground is quite heavily worked, enough pencil work is still clearly apparent in the distant, highlighted area to indicate Girtin’s participation in its production. The tracing and the finished watercolour are the same size, and it may have been that Girtin’s contribution was to simply trace Cozens’ outlines from the sketch. This is certainly the conclusion I take from overlaying images of the two works, which reveals a striking congruence between the forms of both the architecture and the vegetation; therefore, it was up to Turner to obscure the essentially mechanical task of replication and produce something that approximates to a finished work.

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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