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

An Unidentified View, Possibly at Civita Castellana

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0646: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Unidentified View, Possibly at Civita Castellana, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 15 × 21 cm, 5 ⅞ × 8 ¼ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIV, 29 (D36508).

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 View, Possibly at Civita Castellana
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
15 × 21 cm, 5 ⅞ × 8 ¼ in
Mount Dimensions
36.8 x 48 cm, 14 ½ × 18 ⅞ in

'At Castella' on the back, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Unidentified Landscape

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 79 as ‘Twenty-six sketches in Switzerland and Italy, by Turner, in blue and Indian ink, in a scrap-book’; bought by Thomas Griffith for Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £10 10s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1233 as '"At Castella"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'At Castella' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This unidentified view 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 79). The twenty-six 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

It has not been possible to identify the location of the view illustrated here, because even though the drawing is inscribed on the back ‘At Castella’, probably by Girtin himself, this confuses the point as there appears to be no such place as Castella in Italy. It is possible that either the artist who produced the source material or Girtin himself made a mistake, with the most likely scenario being that Girtin mistranscribed the word ‘Castellana’. However, the image does not include any specific topographical detail that might confirm the identification of the site as being Civita Castellana in central Italy, which is the subject of another Monro School drawing (TG0645). Not knowing where the scene is makes the identification of the author of the source for the work that much more difficult. However, it would be a surprise if it turned out not to be a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and, more specifically, one of the sketches that he made during or after his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779. 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 worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).2 In this case, as is all too common, the sketch either has not survived or has not been recognised as Cozens’ work.

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.1233; 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. The quality of Girtin’s pencil work is not of the highest standard, however, being hard and unvarying, and Turner’s washes are also comparatively slight; moreover, there are signs that the watercolour was simply not completed – or, perhaps more accurately, was not taken to its usual level of finish. In general, I am inclined to believe that such a falling off of standards in the Monro School subjects resulted from time pressures placed on Girtin and Turner, rather than indicating the intervention of other, anonymous hands in the work. Moreover, the poor quality of a given watercolour, in itself, does not indicate that it departed from the division of labour that the two artists themselves described to Farington in 1798.

1794 - 1797

A Distant View of Civita Castellana


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

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