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

Albano: The Ruins of the Ancient Baths of Caracalla, Known as Cellomaio

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0612: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Albano: The Ruins of the Ancient Baths of Caracalla, Known as Cellomaio, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 21.6 × 27.2 cm, 8 ½ × 10 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 20 (D36433).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Albano: The Ruins of the Ancient Baths of Caracalla, Known as Cellomaio
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
21.6 × 27.2 cm, 8 ½ × 10 ¾ in
Mount Dimensions
36.3 × 49.5 cm, 14 ¼ × 19 ½ in

‘at Albano’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin (pasted down, but transcribed by a later hand on the lower right of the mount)

Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Ancient Ruins; Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 78 as ‘A book containing 62 interesting sketches in the neighbourhood of Rome and Naples, by Turner, in Indian ink and blue’; bought by Thomas Griffith on behalf of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £21; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1228 as '"At Albano"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'Ruined Buildings at Albano' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view, one of two of the ruined Baths of Caracalla at Albano (the other being TG0610), is mounted in an album of watercolours 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 78). The sixty-four 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

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78), etching, 'Avanzi di antiche terme in Albano' (Remains of Ancient Baths in Albano) for <i>Antichità d'Albano e di Castel Gandolfo</i> (Antiquities of Albano and Castel Gandolfo), 1764, 40.5 × 60.5 cm, 16 × 23 ⅞ in. The Clark, Williamstown (2017.5.2).

As with the majority of the views of the Roman Campagna completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the source of the views of the impressive remains of the ancient baths located on the lower, south-east side of Albano in the hills south of Rome. 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. Few of these survive, but 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 included only a few sketches by Cozens, the patron must have borrowed the bulk of the material from which Girtin and Turner made their copies (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). The baths, which have also been erroneously known as the House of Pompey, were not popular subjects for British artists of Cozens’ generation, though they were the subject of a print by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78) (see figure 1). Comparing Piranesi’s view with a contemporary photograph of the ruins makes it clear that the Monro School watercolour has been reversed, so that the large open arch is set to the right side, not the left as is properly the case. Whether this was deliberate or not is impossible to say, but it does suggest that the source was a tracing, which might have been worked from the back, thus reversing the image.

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.1228; 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. An architectural subject generally requires a more detailed underdrawing than a landscape, and in this case Girtin’s inventive and fluent hand is clearly apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple monochrome palette of blues and greys.

1794 - 1797

Albano: Part of the Ruins of the Ancient Baths of Caracalla, Known as Cellomaio


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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