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

Bergamo, from the Banks of the River Serio

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0687: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797), Bergamo, from the Banks of the River Serio, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 17.5 × 24 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ⁷⁄₁₆ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Bergamo, from the Banks of the River Serio
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
17.5 × 24 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ⁷⁄₁₆ in

'Bergamo from the banks / of the Servio / Venetian State' on the back, by (?) Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The North; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Miss M. and Miss G. Burney; Sotheby's, 9 November 1995, lot 56 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £5,520

About this Work

This view of the northern Italian city of Bergamo from the river Serio 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

As with many of the Italian views completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the source of this image, one of three taken in the vicinity of Bergamo all seen from the river Serio, a few kilometres to the east (the others being TG0688 and TG0689). 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 two Italian visits, in 1776–79 and 1782–83. 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, 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).2 In this case, the Cozens sketch either has not survived or has not been recognised as his work, and nor is it entirely clear on which visit it was made. However, although Cozens made a series of views on nearby Lake Maggiore in 1783, the sequence of dated drawings in his sketchbooks from that trip do not suggest that he had time to make a diversion during his return to England, and Bergamo fits more easily into his itinerary in the autumn of 1776, when he journeyed through northern Italy on the way from Switzerland to Rome.

The bulk of the Monro School copies sold at the patron’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, and, although many have since been accepted as the result of the joint efforts of Girtin and Turner, especially since the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, others (like the work discussed here) have remained under Turner’s name (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The watercolour is only known from a poor-quality black and white photograph, so as far as the attribution is concerned, all that can be said with any degree of confidence is that the work appears to me to be typical of one of the less carefully worked larger watercolours produced at Monro’s house. There is therefore no reason to suspect that the pencil work is not by Girtin, or that the work’s production departs from the general practice described by the artists themselves to Farington in 1798.

1794 - 1797

A Distant View of Bergamo, from the River Serio


1794 - 1797

Gorle, on the River Serio, near Bergamo


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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