For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Robert Cozens

A Ravine with a Bridge, Located on the Banks of Lake Como

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0496: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Ravine with a Bridge, Located on the Banks of Lake Como, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 35.9 × 24.6 cm, 14 ⅛ × 9 ⅝ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1220).

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 Ravine with a Bridge, Located on the Banks of Lake Como
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
35.9 × 24.6 cm, 14 ⅛ × 9 ⅝ in

'on the banks of | the Lago di Como' on the back, by Thomas Girtin; '7' on the back

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 80 as 'A scrap-book, containing 66 sketches in Switzerland, in blue and Indian ink' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Hixon', £21 11s 6d; ... Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 14 May 1881, lot 170 as 'Lago di Como' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £14 14s (stock no.6098); bought by Sir William Agnew, 1st Baronet (1825–1910), 23 May 1881, £14 14s; Dr Crawford J. Pocock (1840–90); Herbert William Underdown (1864–1944); bought from him by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), 1923, £60; given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

London, 1922, no.79 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.19; New Haven, 1980, no.171 as ’Monro School: Thomas Girtin and J. M. W. Turner(?)’; New Haven, 1986a, no.117 as ’On the Banks of the Lago di Como’ by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner; London, 2002, no.99


Underdown, 1923, unpaginated, as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.204 as 'In the Via Mala' by Thomas Girtin; YCBA Online as 'On the Banks of the Lago di Como' by 'Monro School' (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a stone bridge spanning a ravine on the banks of Lake Como displays many of the signs that mark the unique collaboration between Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). Here they 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

Although no source has been found in the extant works of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), there is little doubt that this watercolour was copied from a composition the artist sketched on his 1776 journey to Italy. The inscription on the back of the drawing, identifying the bridge as being on the banks of Lake Como, relates it to a similar view in the Viamala to the north (TG0495) and, more specifically, to a scene on the lake itself that Cozens sketched, which provided the basis for another Monro School view (TG0503). Cozens’ sketches from 1776 have not survived, but they were probably large in scale and little more than summary outlines, which would have needed careful interpretation to create the ‘finished drawings’ that Monro required for his collection. Almost certainly, Girtin worked from a sketch rather than a lost studio watercolour produced by Cozens for his patron Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824), as suggested by Andrew Wilton (Wilton, 1980a, p.61). In all, there are as many as sixty Monro School views of the Alpine scenery of France, Switzerland and northern Italy that can, with varying degrees of certainty, be associated with Cozens’ first trip to the Continent in 1776. Thanks to the inscriptions that Girtin generally copied from Cozens’ sketches, it is usually possible to identify the location depicted. In this case, the bridge ‘on the banks of the Lago di Como’ has proved elusive, though the steep enclosed ravine in Nesso might be a possibility.

Establishing the division of labour within a Monro School drawing is rarely straightforward and this watercolour has, typically, attracted a variety of opinions on its status and authorship. Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak argued that it is one of a handful of Monro School subjects derived from Cozens that could be described as ‘wholly the work of Girtin’, whilst Wilton thought that ‘the drawing is a collaboration between Girtin and Turner’, though he still added a question mark after Turner’s name in the title line (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.204; Wilton, 1980a, p.61). Susan Morris ‘attributed’ the work to Girtin and Turner (Morris, 1986, p.49), and I am inclined to agree with her on the basis that I cannot see anything that deviates from the mass of the artists’ collaborations, certainly nothing to contradict the very clear description of their practice at Monro’s house that they themselves gave to Farington in 1798. Girtin’s employment at Monro’s house may have been a mechanical chore, but in the longer term copying Cozens’ Alpine views, such as this, provided him with a repertoire of compositions that might be applied to the sublime scenery of Britain, such as in The Ogwen Falls (TG1330).

1794 - 1797

A Ravine in the Viamala, between Chur and Chiavenna


1794 - 1797

Lake Como


1798 - 1799

The Ogwen Falls


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).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.