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

Ariccia: Looking Up to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0619: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Ariccia: Looking Up to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 22.1 × 18.9 cm, 8 ¾ × 7 ⅜ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 46 (D36459).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Ariccia: Looking Up to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
22.1 × 18.9 cm, 8 ¾ × 7 ⅜ in
Mount Dimensions
36.3 × 49.5 cm, 14 ¼ × 19 ½ in

‘Lerici’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin (pasted down, but transcribed by a later hand on the lower right of the mount)

Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

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 Thomas 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.1229 as '"Lerici"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view, one of two of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s (1598–1680) picturesquely sited church at Ariccia (the other being TG0618), is mounted in an album of watercolours 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

As with the majority of the views of the Roman Campagna completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the precise source of this image of Bernini’s famous church. In general, Girtin and Turner worked from compositions by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and, more specifically, from sketches and tracings that he made during or after his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779, but the sketches of Ariccia that survive do not match either of the Monro School views. The auction of the artist’s work held in July 1794 contained twenty-seven ‘books of sketches’ and many hundreds of drawings made on his travels, however, and, as Kim Sloan has argued, given that Monro’s posthumous sale included only a few sketches by Cozens, the patron must have borrowed much of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). The church, which is located on a ridge above the road between the lakes of Albano and Nemi, was a particularly popular subject with British artists of Cozens’ generation, such as Francis Towne (1739–1816) (see TG0622 figure 1). However, as with another view (TG0622), these artists more commonly portrayed the building from further off, within a more picturesque landscape setting, looking south east. The closer viewpoint adopted by Cozens was better calculated to show off the architectural merits of Bernini’s centrally planned design, with its classical dome patterned on the great Roman structure of the Pantheon, and, from this slightly different angle, we get to see the unusual bell towers attached to the apse of the church as well. A marginal shift in the artist’s position has also increased the impact made by the church’s location on a ridge above a tree-filled gorge.

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.1229; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave much of the pencil work showing through. An architectural subject generally requires a more detailed underdrawing than a landscape, and in this case Girtin’s inventive and fluent hand is clearly apparent under Turner’s economical use of a monochrome palette in the middle ground. In contrast to TG0618, areas of the foreground vegetation are less closely worked, resulting in a more integrated effect. The two figures to the right have barely been touched by Turner, and they thus retain a striking resemblance to numerous groups that populate Girtin’s watercolours from around 1796–97, such as The West Front of Jedburgh Abbey (TG1231).

1794 - 1797

Ariccia: The Church of Santa Maria Assunta


1795 - 1800

Ariccia: The Church of Santa Maria Assunta and the Chigi Palace


1794 - 1797

Ariccia: The Church of Santa Maria Assunta


1796 - 1797

The West Front of Jedburgh 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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