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

Ancient Ruins near the River Garigliano, Gaeta in the Distance

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0745: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Ancient Ruins near the River Garigliano, Gaeta in the Distance, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 15.9 × 25.4 cm, 6 ¼ × 10 in. Private Collection, untraced.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Ancient Ruins near the River Garigliano, Gaeta in the Distance
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
15.9 × 25.4 cm, 6 ¼ × 10 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Ancient Ruins; Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2000


Phillips, 11 July 2000, lot 13 as 'A Shepherd Resting by Ruins on the Coast' by Thomas Girtin, £1,300; Sotheby's, 30 November 2000, lot 228 as 'Near the Garigliano, Ruins with the Sea & Gaeta Beyond' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, unsold; Nicholas Bowlby Ltd, London

About this Work

This view of ancient ruins near the river Garigliano to the north of Naples, with the coastal town of Gaeta seen in the distance, 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

Antique Ruins near the Garigliano, Gaeta in the Distance

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed ‘Near the Garigliano – Decr.8’, with the distant ‘Gaeta’ also marked on the image (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.344). The sketch is found in the fifth of the seven sketchbooks from Cozens’ second Italian trip, which saw the artist travel to Naples in 1782 in the company of his patron William Beckford (1760–1844), though it was actually made on the return journey to Rome at the beginning of December. 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 ruins, which may be part of the site at Minturno. 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 worked from tracings of the sketchbook views.

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were described as being by Turner alone, and this generally remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case, however, the work was attributed to Girtin alone when it appeared on the art market in 2000. Monro’s posthumous sale included a number of ‘views in Italy’ that were listed as being by Girtin, including ‘Three, by Girtin, after Cozens’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 35). However, this work does not resemble stylistically the Monro School watercolours that have the strongest claims to be by Girtin alone, such as Lake Vico (TG0635) or Vallombrosa Abbey (TG0669), and I can see no reason to conclude that this example departs from the practice employed in the overwhelming proportion of copies after Cozens’ sketches (as Girtin and Turner reported to Farington in 1798). Girtin’s involvement in its production was therefore fairly basic, 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. It is perhaps significant that when the work reappeared at auction later in 2000, it did so with an attribution solely to Turner.

1794 - 1797

Lake Vico


1797 - 1798

Vallombrosa Abbey


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).

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