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

Castelmur Castle, in the Village of Bondo

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0494: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Castelmur Castle, in the Village of Bondo, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23.3 × 19.2 cm, 9 ⅛ × 7 ½ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.205).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Castelmur Castle, in the Village of Bondo
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23.3 × 19.2 cm, 9 ⅛ × 7 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in June 2021


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 80 as 'A scrap-book, containing 66 sketches in Switzerland, in blue and Indian ink' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Hixon', £21 11s 6d; ... Francis Pierrepont Barnard (1854–1931); his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.35; Herrmann, 1968, no.96, p.106 as 'formerly attributed to J. M. W. Turner'; Ashmolean Collections Online as 'In the Grisons' by an artist in the 'circle of Dr Thomas Monro (1759 – 1833), formerly attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851)’ (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of Castelmur Castle, in the mountainous region of the Grisons, now known as Graubünden, 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

In the Grisons: Castelmur Castle

The view of the twelfth-century castle tower, with the Romanesque church tower of Bondo behind, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that he executed as a small monochrome study for an unknown patron (see figure 1) (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.46). It is very unlikely that Monro had access to Cozens’ finished watercolours, and the work was presumably copied either from an on-the-spot drawing made in September 1776 or from one of the tracings the artist was in the habit of producing from his own compositions. Cozens’ sketches from 1776 have not survived, but they were probably large in scale and little more than summary outlines, which would have needed careful interpretation to create the ‘finished drawings’ that Monro required for his collection. In all, there are as many as sixty Monro School views of the Alpine scenery of France, Switzerland and northern Italy that can, with varying degrees of certainty, be associated with Cozens’ first trip to the Continent in 1776. Another Monro School view of Bondo shows the castle and the church from further away (TG0490). This watercolour and the depiction of the ruined tower from nearby Chur (TG0491) stand out from the rest of the Swiss scenes due to their smaller size and more substantial colouring.

The exact division of labour in the Monro School watercolours is rarely straightforward, however. In this case, the watercolour has been attributed to Turner alone, though this too has come to be questioned, whilst the co-authorship of Girtin has not hitherto been considered (Herrmann, 1968, p.106). However, amongst the visible pencil marks are some characteristic touches suggesting that Girtin was involved in the work’s production, whilst it is Turner’s contribution that is arguably more questionable. The watercolour has faded somewhat and this has no doubt contributed to a rather lifeless quality in the washes of colour, but is that enough to conclude that an artist other than Turner was involved in its production? On balance, I think that is unlikely, and a joint attribution with a question mark also against Turner’s name is my best suggestion for this typical Monro School quandary.

1794 - 1797

Bondo, with the House of the Count de Salis and Castelmur Castle in the Distance


1794 - 1797

A Ruined Tower in a Valley, near Chur


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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