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

Capri: A View over the Eastern Promontory to the Bay of Salerno, with Steps Leading to the Castello Barbarossa

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0663: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Capri: A View over the Eastern Promontory to the Bay of Salerno, with Steps Leading to the Castello Barbarossa, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 30.3 × 48.6 cm, 11 ⅞ × 19 ⅛ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 17 (D36538).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Capri: A View over the Eastern Promontory to the Bay of Salerno, with Steps Leading to the Castello Barbarossa
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
30.3 × 48.6 cm, 11 ⅞ × 19 ⅛ in

‘at Capri’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin (pasted down, and noted incorrectly by Alexander Finberg as 'At Capua')

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in December 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1235 as '"At Capua"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'View of a Promontory near Naples' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 26/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a hitherto unknown coastal scene, now identified as showing the island of Capri, was bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). It is one of several hundred drawings that resulted from the unique collaboration between Girtin and Turner at Monro’s home at the Adelphi in London. 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

The watercolour depicts a dramatic view on the island of Capri, looking east along the promontory, with the peninsular of Sorrento in the distance. The Marina Grande is in the middle ground to the left, and in the foreground steps lead up to the Castello Barbarossa. The work has hitherto been unidentified, no doubt because of what appears to have been a misreading of a no-longer-visible inscription on the back suggesting that the scene was ‘At Capua’, which is actually an inland town. The correct identification was made possible following the discovery of a similar view by John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831), though there are sufficient differences between the compositions to suggest that it was not the model here (Private Collection, from an untraced sale). John Robert Cozens (1752–97) was not previously thought to have visited Capri on either of his trips to Italy, but, given that his works provided the basis for a large proportion of the Monro School copies of Italian subjects, there is good reason to suspect that he made the short crossing to the island from Naples or Sorrento and that a lost sketch made on the spot was the source once again for Girtin and Turner. The auction of Cozens’ 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 the artist, the patron must have borrowed much of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).

Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained a number of Neapolitan scenes attributed to Turner, many of which were acquired by the artist himself, as here. The cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for watercolours such as this example, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1235; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave some of the pencil work untouched in order to create highlights, with the result that Girtin’s inventive and fluent hand is clearly apparent alongside Turner’s economical use of a simple palette of blues and greys.

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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