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

A Distant View of the Alps, Taken from the Plains North of Turin

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0691: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Distant View of the Alps, Taken from the Plains North of Turin, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 18.4 × 25.3 cm, 7 ¼ × 10 in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVI, 10 (D36569).

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 Distant View of the Alps, Taken from the Plains North of Turin
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
18.4 × 25.3 cm, 7 ¼ × 10 in

‘Plains near Turin with / the Alps near Mt Cenis’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The North

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 112 as 'Entrance of the Alps between Turin and Novalese' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Moon, Boys', £3 6s; Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

Second Loan Collection, 1869–1931, no.11 as ’Mountainous Landscape’


Finberg, 1909, vol. 2, p.1237 as '"Plains near Turin, with the Alps near Mt. Cenis"' by Thomas Girtin; Warrell, 1991, p.43; Turner Online as 'View of the Alps from near Turin' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This distant view of the Alps, taken from a point north of Turin on the way to the pass of Mont Cenis, was bought at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851). Although badly faded and discoloured due to prolonged exposure to light, the watercolour displays many of the signs that mark the unique collaboration between Girtin and his contemporary Turner at the home of their mutual patron 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

As with so many of the Italian views completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the precise source of this image of the valley of the Dora Riparia looking north towards the Alps. In general, Girtin and Turner worked from compositions by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and, more specifically, from sketches and tracings that he made during or after his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779 and again between 1782 and 1783. In this case, it seems that the source was a sketch made on Cozens’ return to Britain in 1779, which, if Monro School works such as TG0509 and TG0694 are a trustworthy guide, followed the popular Alpine crossing at Mont Cenis. The auction of the artist’s work held in July 1794 contained twenty-seven ‘books of sketches’ and many hundreds of drawings made on his travels, and, as Kim Sloan has argued, given that Monro’s posthumous sale contained only a few sketches by Cozens, the patron must have borrowed much of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).2 In this case, as is all too common, the sketch either has not survived or has not been recognised as Cozens’ work. Cozens actually crossed the Alps at Mont Cenis again in 1783, but none of the sketches he made in the last of the seven sketchbooks associated with that journey accord with a Monro School view, and a lost drawing from the earlier trip still seems the likeliest source. It was suggested by Alexander Finberg, the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, that the work is a copy of a view by Cozens that has traditionally been known as Valley with Winding Streams (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1237). The composition has now been identified as showing the lower part of the Oberhasli Valley in Switzerland, however, and it bears only the slightest of resemblances to the scene shown here (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.27).

The bulk of the Monro School copies that were sold in the patron’s posthumous sale were catalogued as by Turner alone, but in recent years, following the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, their joint attribution has become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave much of the pencil work showing through. In this case, Girtin’s inventive and fluent hand is clearly apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple monochrome palette. Indeed, the very broad colouring of the foreground suggests that the work was put aside before it was taken to its customary degree of finish, though the effect may have been exaggerated by the work’s faded condition.

1794 - 1797

The Village of Bramans in the Haute Maurienne in Savoy


1794 - 1797

Lake Mont Cenis


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).
  2. 2 A full record of the sale is available in the Documents section of the Archive (1794 – Item 1)

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