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 in a Valley near Vietri sul Mare

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0720: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Unidentified Villa in a Valley near Vietri sul Mare, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 17.8 × 23.2 cm, 7 × 9 ⅛ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.938).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Villa in a Valley near Vietri, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 16.8 × 23.8 cm, 6 ⅝ × 9 ⅜ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4458).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
Title
  • An Unidentified Villa in a Valley near Vietri sul Mare
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
Dimensions
17.8 × 23.2 cm, 7 × 9 ⅛ in
Inscription

'TURNER, J.M.W. : IN THE VALLEY | NEAR VIETRI' on the back, lower right

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0720
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001

Provenance

Christie's, 9 December 1949, lot 40 as 'An Italian Villa' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Agnew', £28 9s; Thos. Agnew & Sons; bought by Sabina Girtin, née Cooper (1878–1959), £32 6s; Tom Girtin (1913–94); bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

London, 1962a, no.24; Reading, 1969, no.29 as ’Monro School. Attributed to J. M. W. Turner, R. A.’

Bibliography

Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.59; YCBA Online as 'In the Valley Near Vietri' by Joseph Mallord William Turner (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of an unidentified villa in a valley between Salerno and the coastal village of Vietri sul Mare was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above). 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

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, a simple outline inscribed ‘In the Valley near Vietri – Septr 20’, was almost certainly purchased at Cozens’ studio sale 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, now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). The source drawing was traced by Cozens himself from an on-the-spot sketch he made on a second visit to Italy, in 1782, when the artist travelled with his patron William Beckford (1760–1844) and stayed in the Naples area for four months (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.264). The sketch is contained in the third of seven sketchbooks that survive from the trip (The Whitworth, Manchester (D.1975.6.6)), and it was presumably traced by Cozens because the books were retained by Beckford. Cozens travelled to Salerno in the middle of September, when, following Beckford’s departure, he was finally free to explore the scenery along the coast, and he made twenty sketches, which ultimately formed the sources of nine or so Monro School subjects.

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, this watercolour is still listed as solely by Turner by its owner, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not entirely surprising given that the watercolour has been quite heavily worked by Turner with a full palette of colours, which has effaced much of Girtin’s characteristic pencil work. Arguably, just enough of the artist’s inventive touches are still apparent, particularly in the building, to point to Girtin’s involvement in its 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.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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)

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.