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

An Unidentified Village on the Ligurian Coast, East of Genoa

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0679: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) Alexander Cozens (1717–86), An Unidentified Village on the Ligurian Coast, East of Genoa, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 16.1 × 25.2 cm, 6 ⅜ × 9 ⅞ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 61 (D36474).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: (?) Alexander Cozens (1717–86), On the Ligurian Coast, East of Genoa, graphite on laid paper, 15.9 × 25.4 cm, 6 ¼ × 10 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4525).

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 (?) Alexander Cozens (1717-1788)
  • An Unidentified Village on the Ligurian Coast, East of Genoa
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
16.1 × 25.2 cm, 6 ⅜ × 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: Northern Coastal Scenes

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 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.1230 as '"East of Genoa"' by Thomas Girtin; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.36; Wilton, 1984a, p.18; Turner Online as 'On the Coast of Piedmont' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This coastal view, with an unidentified village somewhere east of Genoa, is mounted in an album of watercolours that was 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

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 tracing inscribed ‘East of Genoa’ (see the image above), was almost certainly purchased at the sale of ‘Mr COZENS’ 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). Neither the 1794 auction nor Monro’s posthumous sale distinguished between Alexander Cozens (1717–86) and his son John Robert Cozens (1752–97), and, perhaps not surprisingly, it is generally assumed that the source for Monro School drawings such as this was provided by the latter, more famous artist. However, as Sloan has again pointed out, there is no conclusive evidence to say that all of the sketches in the Yale album are by the son. As with examples such as Vernazza, on the Coast near La Spezia (TG0677), the source for this work appears to be amongst a group of drawings that Alexander made on a coastal voyage on his way either to or from Italy in 1746 (Sloan, 1986, pp.127–28). There is no indication that John made a journey that would have enabled him to take views from aboard a vessel, though it is of course still possible that he was the executant of the source drawing here, albeit that he traced or copied it from an on-the-spot sketch by his father.

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.1230; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave something of the pencil work showing through. Neither element of the production process – pencil outline or the addition of colour washes – is of the highest quality, however, though there is no reason to suspect that the work departed from the practice described by the artists themselves to Farington in 1798. Overlaying images of the Monro School watercolour and the Cozens sketch suggests that Girtin did little more than trace the general outlines of the simple composition; it was therefore left to Turner to obscure the essentially mechanical task of replication.

Image Overlay

1794 - 1797

Vernazza, on the Coast near La Spezia


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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