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

An Unidentified Fortress: Entering the Tyrol Region

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0698: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797), An Unidentified Fortress: Entering the Tyrol Region, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 16 × 23 cm, 6 ¼ × 9 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Entrance into the Tyrol, graphite on laid paper, 16.5 × 24.4 cm, 6 ½ × 9 ⅝ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4598).

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)
  • An Unidentified Fortress: Entering the Tyrol Region
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
16 × 23 cm, 6 ¼ × 9 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Austrian View; Hills and Mountains

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 113 as 'The entrance to the Tyrol, & 3' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Moon, Boys', £6; possibly Christie's, 2 March 1843, lot 165 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Gibbs', 8s; ... Sotheby’s, 16 November 1989, lot 60 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, £3,300

About this Work

This view of an unidentified fortress just over the border into the Alpine region of the Tyrol, part of western Austria and northern Italy, 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 view is based on a simple outline drawing, inscribed ‘Entrance into the Tirol’ and dated 4 June 1782, that is mounted in an album now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (see the source image above). This was almost certainly traced by Cozens himself from an on-the-spot sketch he made on a second visit to Italy (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.195), when the artist accompanied his patron William Beckford (1760–1844) through northern Italy to Naples. The sketch is the second image in the first of seven sketchbooks that survive from the trip (The Whitworth, Manchester (D.1975.4.2)), and it was presumably traced by Cozens because the books were retained by Beckford. Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained only twenty or so sketches by Cozens, so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour was presumably purchased at the sale of ‘Mr COZENS’ in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827).2 As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). Beckford and his party crossed into Italy via the Brenner Pass and the first sixteen sketches produced by Cozens show scenes in the Tyrol region. At least six of them ultimately provided the models for Monro School drawings, including Entering the Tyrol: Unidentified Buildings amongst Wooded Hills (TG0697).

The majority of the Alpine scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were described as being by Turner alone, and this generally remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case, some of the pencil work remains evident in areas where Turner has left the paper untouched to create highlights, and there is just enough of this visible to suggest that Girtin was involved in the view’s production, 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

Entering the Tyrol: Unidentified Buildings amongst Wooded Hills


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).
  2. 2 A full record of the sale is available in the Documents section of the Archive (1794 – Item 1)

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