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

A Ferry Crossing a River, on the Road between Eboli and Paestum

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0734: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Ferry Crossing a River, on the Road between Eboli and Paestum, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 16.4 × 22.8 cm, 6 ½ × 9 in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIV, 22 (D36500).

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 Ferry Crossing a River, on the Road between Eboli and Paestum
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
16.4 × 22.8 cm, 6 ½ × 9 in
Mount Dimensions
36.8 × 48 cm, 14 ½ × 18 ⅞ in
Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 79 as ‘Twenty-six sketches in Switzerland and Italy, by Turner, in blue and Indian ink, in a scrap-book’; bought by Thomas Griffith for Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £10 10s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1233 as 'View near Naples' by Thomas Girtin; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.63; Turner Online as 'The River Carizza at La Schaffa' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 09/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a ferry crossing an unidentified river between Eboli and Paestum, in southern Italy, is based on a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1) and is mounted in an album of watercolours that was 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 79). The twenty-six 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 Ferry that Crosses the River Carizza at La Schaffa, between Eboli and Paestum

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed ‘La Schaffa – The Ferry that crosses the Carizzi between Evoli & Pestum – Novr. 7’ and this has provided the basis for the work’s title. This has caused some confusion, however, since there is no river Carizzi in southern Italy, and no location matches ‘La Schaffa’, so clearly Cozens’ inscription is erroneous. The only major river between Eboli and Paestum is the Sele, and there is a significant crossing point at Barizzo, so it is possible that the inscription is a corruption or misreading of those names.

The sketch is found in the fourth of the seven sketchbooks from Cozens’ second Italian trip, which saw the artist travel to Naples in 1782 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. 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, which provided the basis for more than 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 view of picturesque straw huts overlooking the river crossing. The notion that the Monro School artists worked from simple outline tracings, rather than the on-the-spot sketches, is supported by two considerations. Firstly, it is highly unlikely that Beckford would have lent out the sketchbooks and, given that Cozens took the trouble to make copies of so many of the drawings, it is clear that the patron, and not the artist, retained the books. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, Monro School copies such as this example never follow the shading or the distribution of light seen in the on-the-spot sketches, though they always replicate the basic outlines found in the tracings. In this instance, the Monro School watercolour tellingly does not include the smoke coming from the left of the straw huts, as depicted in the on-the-spot sketch by a simple wash of monochrome, a detail that could not have been included in an outline drawing.

The album containing this drawing was sold in 1833 as the work of Turner, but the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for the watercolours, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1233; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes by Turner leave large areas untouched in order to create highlights, so that Girtin’s pencil work is clearly evident, particularly in the figures. In practice, Girtin did little more than trace the general outlines of the composition and it was left to Turner to obscure the essentially mechanical task of replication.

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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