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

An Unidentified Waterfall, Possibly in Switzerland, Known as 'The Velino Falls'

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0642: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Unidentified Waterfall, Possibly in Switzerland, Known as 'The Velino Falls', 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24 × 37.3 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅝ in. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (NGI.2405).

Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • An Unidentified Waterfall, Possibly in Switzerland, Known as 'The Velino Falls'
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24 × 37.3 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅝ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Unidentified Landscape; Waterfall Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2015


Henry Vaughan (1809–99); bequeathed to the Gallery, 1900

Exhibition History

London, 1887, Black and White Room, no.8 as ’The Falls of the Handek’


Armstrong, 1902, p.284 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Dawson, 1988, pp.48-49 as 'A View of Velmo near Terni, Italy' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Hodge and Mac Nally, 2012, pp.50–51 as 'The Fall of the River Velino, near Terni, after John Robert Cozens' by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of an unidentified waterfall has a number of features in common with the work produced at the house of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) by Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) in the winter months of the years between 1794 and 1797. In particular, the composition of the landscape resembles some of the views made after the sketches and tracings of John Robert Cozens (1752–97) dating from his two trips to the Continent. Although it has not been possible to identify the subject, the fact that the watercolour conforms to one of the standard formats of the Swiss scenes – that is, worked on paper of about 9 ¼ × 14 in (23.5 × 35.6 cm) – indicates that there was a Cozens link and that the work may therefore represent one of the Alpine waterfalls he sketched as he travelled through the country to Italy.

The view has hitherto been identified as depicting the falls of the river Velino, near Terni in central Italy, and the catalogue of the Turner collection at the National Gallery of Ireland suggests that it was based on a sketch by Cozens dating from 1783 (see TG0992 figure 1) (Dawson, 1988, pp.48–49). However, this is wrong on two counts. Firstly, although the composition shown in the sketch was used as the basis for a Monro School view of the spectacular falls (TG0992), it is quite different from the horizontal composition shown here, with a mountain looming above to the left. Secondly, the broad mass of water falling in this view in no way resembles the compact vertical descent of the famous Cascata delle Marmore, or Marmore Falls. These were the subject of numerous works in the eighteenth century, including one by Francis Towne (1739–1816), whose watercolour The Cascade of Terni (Towne Online, FT300) clearly shows a very different scene. With the work shorn of this erroneous title, it is hoped that the correct identification of the falls will soon follow, and I suspect that they will indeed turn out to be in Switzerland.

Monro School drawings were invariably sold from the patron’s collection as by Turner alone, and, although Andrew Wilton has established the joint authorship of many of them, this example has never been associated with Girtin (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is particularly strange given that the economical application of a simple palette of blues and greys by Turner leaves much of the pencil work clearly visible, and this displays a number of Girtin’s characteristic and inventive touches. It is true that a broad landscape does not require the detailed pencil work of, say, an architectural subject, but there is enough evidence here, I suggest, to be sure of Girtin’s involvement. Indeed, if anything is in doubt it might be Turner’s contribution. Thus, whilst the two artists recorded that their roles at Monro’s house were split so that generally Girtin ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798), the very rapid application of washes of colour in broad sweeps is closer to Girtin’s characteristic practice of around 1796–97 than that of his colleague.

1794 - 1797

The Marmore Falls, near Terni


by Greg Smith

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