For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works (?) Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after John Robert Cozens

An Unidentified Villa, between Florence and Bologna

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0753: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Unidentified Villa, between Florence and Bologna, 1794–97, graphite, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper, 17.9 × 23.3 cm, 7 × 9 ⅛ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1941.24).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • An Unidentified Villa, between Florence and Bologna
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper
17.9 × 23.3 cm, 7 × 9 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Tuscany

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in June 2021


Revd Francis Milnes Temple Palgrave (1865–1955) and his sister Annora Georgina Palgrave (1872–1949); presented jointly to the Museum, 1941


Herrmann, 1968, no.95, pp.105–06 as 'formerly attributed' to Joseph Mallord William Turner; Ashmolean Collections Online as 'formerly attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851) circle of Dr Thomas Monro (1759 – 1833)’ (Accessed 09/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of an unidentified villa, seen from the road between Florence and Bologna, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1). It was produced at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), where Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) 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’. The majority of the resulting watercolours saw the two artists engaged in a unique collaboration; as they later recalled, Girtin ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’ 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

A Villa on a Hillside amongst Trees, between Florence and Bologna

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed and dated ‘Between Florence & Bologna – Septr.28 a Villa’, meaning that he observed the view during the return leg of his second trip to the Continent, in the autumn of 1783 (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.403). The sketch is found in the sixth of the seven sketchbooks that are associated with a visit that began with a journey to Naples in the company of his patron William Beckford (1760–1844). It is unlikely that the Monro School watercolour was copied directly from the sketch by Cozens, however. It would have been uncharacteristic of Beckford to have lent the sketchbooks to Monro, and the existence of a large number of tracings of their contents by Cozens himself suggests that the patron, rather than the artist, retained the books. An album put together by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827), now in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, includes more than seventy tracings from on-the-spot drawings in the first three of the sketchbooks, and these provided the basis for at least thirty Monro School works. There are only five tracings from the next three books, but there is no reason to think that others did not exist, and it was presumably from these lost copies by Cozens that as many as thirty-five more watercolours were produced by Girtin and Turner, including this view of a substantial villa surrounded by trees. The fact that the Monro School copies never follow either the shading or the distribution of light seen in the on-the-spot sketches, though they always replicate the basic outlines, further suggests that Girtin and Turner generally worked from a tracing of the sketchbook view, and surely that was the case here as well.

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, there is still a strong tendency to consider works such as this without reference to Girtin’s contribution (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not surprising in this case because the drawing has been quite heavily worked with a relatively full palette of colours. However, this has not entirely obscured the pencil work and arguably there are sufficient signs of Girtin’s characteristic marks and stylistic traits as a draughtsman to be reasonably confident of his involvement in the production. Turner’s contribution is altogether more problematic, however. The colouring is by his standards relatively crude, formulaic and overworked, and there is little coherent sense of space or distance. Standards certainly vary greatly across the mass of the Turner–Girtin collaborations, but in this case I suspect that the poor quality of the colour washes suggests the involvement of the hand of another, unknown artist, working over Girtin’s pencil outline.

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).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.