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

An Unidentified Villa, Possibly in Rome

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0559: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Unidentified Villa, Possibly in Rome, 1794–97, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, 26.5 × 37.7 cm, 10 ⅜ × 14 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.4.1422).

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 Villa, Possibly in Rome
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper
26.5 × 37.7 cm, 10 ⅜ × 14 ⅞ in

'38/64 Back of [ . . . ] Villa | [ . . . ] at Rome' on the back; 'Turner' on the back

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Modern Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


John Baskett, 1969; bought by Paul Mellon (1907–99); presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1980, no.176 as ’Buildings overlooking water - near Naples(?)’ by ’Monro School: Thomas Girtin and J. M. W. Turner(?)’; New Haven, 1986a, no.111 as ’Buildings Overlooking Water, near Naples’ by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner


YCBA Online as 'Buildings Overlooking Water, near Naples' by 'Monro School' (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This unidentified view 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 subject of this view remains unknown despite considerable efforts to identify what appears to be distinctive monumental structure. Andrew Wilton has suggested a Neapolitan scene, but he has also noted a resemblance to the Swiss views made after the compositions of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), which share the same dimensions (Wilton, 1980a, p.62). Susan Morris, noting an inscription on the back of uncertain status, considered Rome as a possibility, but her suggestion that the indistinct note refers to the ancient villa of Sallust has not proved to be the answer (Morris, 1986, p.49). The discovery that the Monro School views of the Castle of St Angelo (TG0545) and the Milvian Bridge (TG0553) are to varying degrees imaginary might offer an alternative solution, however; could it be that the image is at least partly an invention? This would certainly explain why, in addition to the location proving so elusive, nothing comparable has been found amongst the Italian subjects sketched by Cozens or any of his contemporaries.

Ascertaining the division of labour within such a marginal Monro School subject is only a little less fraught. Just enough of the pencil work shows through to suggest that Girtin may well have been involved in the work’s production, albeit at the most functional level. If anything, the washes are even more perfunctory, and it is hard to believe that Turner would have rendered the walls with such unmediated and flat areas of colour. It is possible, however, that the work is simply not finished and that time caught up with the artist; thus, it may be that a drawing that was left incomplete at the end of a night’s work was not taken up again the following week. Therefore, variations in the quality of the Monro School works, which can indeed be very great, do not always mean that we should be looking to attribute them to lesser artists: the amount of labour that Turner and Girtin were able to invest in a work is a crucial factor too.

1794 - 1797

Rome: The Castle of St Angelo


1794 - 1797

An Architectural Composition, Based on the Milvian Bridge over the River Tiber


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).

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