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

An Unidentified Fortress, Probably Baia Castle

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0658: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Unidentified Fortress, Probably Baia Castle, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 17.3 × 25 cm, 6 ¾ × 9 ⅞ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 54 (D36467).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • An Unidentified Fortress, Probably Baia Castle
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
17.3 × 25 cm, 6 ¾ × 9 ⅞ in
Mount Dimensions
36.3 × 49.5 cm, 14 ¼ × 19 ½ in
Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

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.1229 as 'Castle on promontory' by Thomas Girtin; Wilton, 1984a, p.16 as 'A castle overlooking the sea (after J.R. Cozens?) by "Monro School"'; Shanes, 2016a, p.98 as 'Castle on a Promontory' by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner; Turner Online as 'A Castle Overlooking the Sea' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a coastal fortress, which may be Baia Castle, north of Naples, 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

As with many of the Monro School drawings of Italian scenes, it has not been possible to trace the source of this view of a coastal fortress. But, as was generally the case, it is likely to have been a sketch made by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) on one of his visits to Naples, either in 1777 or in 1782–83. None of the many views of Naples that are included in the seven sketchbooks of material that are associated with Cozens’ second visit to the Continent resemble this scene, so it is likely that Girtin worked from a lost sketch from the earlier, less well-documented trip. The auction of Cozens’ 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 much of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).2 Identifying the source for the watercolour is not helped by the fact that it has ultimately not been possible to determine the subject beyond reasonable doubt, though a comparison with the structure shown in TG0654 does suggest that it is probably Baia Castle, near Naples. Taking into account that the view was taken from further away and from a slightly different angle, the most significant difference is the tall cliff to the left, which does not accord with the coast at this point. With no source drawing to hand to check against, there is no way of proving it, but I suspect that the view does show the fifteenth-century castle and that the Monro School artists either adapted the distant view for compositional reasons or misread a simple outline sketch.

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.1229; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). However, in the online catalogue of the Turner Bequest, Wilton has qualified this by suggesting that this ‘accomplished drawing in which outline is minimal and the washes are free and expressive … may be the work of Turner alone’ (D36467). This nicely encapsulates the challenge of attributing the large number of Monro School landscapes, which, in contrast to scenes in which architecture predominates, do not require a visible broken outline for their final effect. To my eye, however, not only do the outlines show no stylistic features that demand to be attributed to Turner but also the watercolour washes could equally be the work of Girtin as well. These things are difficult to estimate precisely, but, given that making pencil outlines of landscape subjects must have taken less time than colouring them, Girtin presumably had opportunities to contribute to the process of enhancing his own outlines if his attendance at Monro’s house matched Turner’s in terms of frequency. The 1833 sale acknowledged this by listing a significant number of ‘Italian views’ as being by Girtin alone as well as specifying that four of these were ‘after Cozens’, and I suspect that this was the case here (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 July 1833, lot 108; Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 35).

1794 - 1797

Baia Castle


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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