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

A Villa on the Banks of the River Arno, Known as the Villa Salviati

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0749: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Villa on the Banks of the River Arno, Known as the Villa Salviati, 1794–97, graphite, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper, 18.4 × 23.5 cm, 7 ¼ × 9 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.939).

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

Description
Creator(s)
(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
Title
  • A Villa on the Banks of the River Arno, Known as the Villa Salviati
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper
Dimensions
18.4 × 23.5 cm, 7 ¼ × 9 ¼ in
Inscription

'Villa Salviati on the Arno' on the back, lower right; 'Turner RA' on the back

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Tuscany; River Scenery

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0749
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website

Provenance

Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 134 as 'The villa Salviati, &c. 2' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Rogers', £4 8s; possibly Samuel Rogers (1763–1855); then by descent to his great-nephew, Henry Rogers (c.1823–78); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 21 May 1878, lot 133 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Booker', £24 3s; ... Cotswold Gallery, London, 1930; ... Frederick Meatyard, 1943; bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), £8; Tom Girtin (1913–94); bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

Cotswold Gallery, 1930a, no.2 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Cotswold Gallery, 1930b, no.93, £52; Cotswold Gallery, 1932, no.14

Bibliography

Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.75; YCBA Online as 'Villa Salviati on the Arno' by Joseph Mallord William Turner (Accessed 09/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a villa on the river Arno, east of Florence, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1). 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

The Villa Salviati on the Arno

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed ‘Villa Salviati – on the Arno.’, as is the back of the Monro School drawing, but the artist was clearly mistaken as to the identity of the building (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.383). It bears no resemblance to the much larger structure of the Villa Salviati, which was built in a number of architectural styles on a site to the north of Florence, well away from the river. The view seems to show, instead, the Villa la Massa, which is located on a bend in the river a few kilometres east of Florence. Cozens would have observed this villa from a boat during an excursion from the city that he undertook on ‘Septr.25.’, during the return leg of his second trip to the Continent, in the autumn of 1783. The sketch is found in the sixth of the seven sketchbooks that are associated with a visit that began with a journey to Naples 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. It would have been uncharacteristic of Beckford to have lent the sketchbooks to Monro, and the existence of a large number of tracings of their contents by Cozens himself suggests that the patron, rather than the artist, retained the books. 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, and these provided the basis for at least 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 and two other views made on the excursion from Florence (TG0750 and TG0751). The fact that the Monro School copies never follow either the shading or the distribution of light seen in the on-the-spot sketches, though they always replicate the basic outlines, further suggests that Girtin and Turner generally worked from a tracing of the sketchbook view, and surely that was the case here as well.

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, this work is still listed online as solely by Turner by the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not entirely surprising, given that the watercolour has been quite heavily worked by Turner with a relatively full palette of colours, which has effaced much, if not all, of Girtin’s characteristic pencil work. The question then is, if nothing of Girtin’s work remains visible, does it follow that this watercolour departs from the general practice of the artists at Monro’s house (as they described to Farington in 1798)? Although the point can never be proved, I suspect that Girtin was involved in the production of such works, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from a Cozens drawing; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical practice of replication and produce something that approximates to a finished work.

1794 - 1797

A Building amongst Trees, on the River Arno near Florence

TG0750

1794 - 1797

A View on the River Arno, with a Tower on a Hill

TG0751

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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