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

An Unidentified Building and Column Set amongst Trees, Probably the Villa Negroni in Rome

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0561: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Unidentified Building and Column Set amongst Trees, Probably the Villa Negroni in Rome, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 25.9 × 34.2 cm, 10 ¼ × 13 ½ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.37-1934).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • An Unidentified Building and Column Set amongst Trees, Probably the Villa Negroni in Rome
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
25.9 × 34.2 cm, 10 ¼ × 13 ½ in

'Villa Negroni' on the back; 'Turner' on the back; 'R D W' on the back

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2016


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); Archdeacon Charles Parr Burney (1785–1864); then by descent to Rosetta d’Arblay Wood (née Burney) (1814–1910); then by descent to Edith Mary Burke Powell (Lady Powell, née Wood) (1848–1934); bequeathed to the Museum, 1934

Exhibition History

London, 1976, no.64 as ’Landscape with trees, Italian buildings and column’ by ’Monro School’


Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.385 as 'Monro School Copy, perhaps by Turner'; V&A Collections Online as 'Landscape with Trees, Italian Buildings and Column, in the style of J. M. W. Turner' (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This watercolour of an unidentified building 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

The drawing is inscribed on the back ‘Villa Negroni’, and, though this does not seem to be in Girtin’s hand, there is some evidence to suggest that this is indeed the subject of the drawing. John Robert Cozens (1752–97) sketched in the villa’s famous gardens and he produced two fine watercolours featuring its celebrated cypress trees.2 However, the villa has long been demolished and there is not enough architectural detail to confirm the identity of the building in this view. Moreover, none of the many contemporary images of the Negroni gardens feature the distinctive Corinthian column surmounted by a monumental figure shown here. Given that nothing remotely comparable has been identified in the extensive visual records of Rome’s Renaissance and Baroque gardens, it is possible that this detail was invented, but I suspect that there may be another explanation – namely, that the view does indeed show the Villa Negroni but that the detail of the column stemmed from a misreading of the original outline sketch, so that a distant cypress was rendered incorrectly as a column.

Perhaps because of uncertainty about the subject, the drawing has barely rated a mention in the literature, which is a pity because close examination reveals a highly characteristic underdrawing by Girtin of some quality. Although the washes are very summary, their understated confidence suggests Turner at his most laconic, bringing the broken line that Girtin uses on the architectural details to life with the addition of a simple dab of grey wash. The habit Girtin has of making his lines look like letters and numbers is particularly apparent in the foreground too.

by Greg Smith


  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 watercolour that was said to show the Villa Negroni (see TG0565 figure 1), has now been identified as a distant view of St John Lateran from the south and this was realised at one remove by Girtin and Turner in a Monro School work (TG0565).

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