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

Florence: The Arno, with the Ponte alla Carraia

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0672: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797), Florence: The Arno, with the Ponte alla Carraia, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 18 × 24 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Florence: The Arno with the Ponte alla Carraia, graphite on laid paper, 17.1 × 25.4 cm, 6 ¾ × 10 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4506).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Florence: The Arno, with the Ponte alla Carraia
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
18 × 24 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ½ in

'Florence' on the back of the mount

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Tuscany

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Cotswold Gallery, London, 1932; ... Sotheby's, 14 April 1994b, lot 462 as 'Florence from the Arno' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £6,325

Exhibition History

Cotswold Gallery, 1932, no.15


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.38

About this Work

This view of the Ponte alla Carraia crossing the river Arno in the centre of Florence, looking downriver, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above). 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

Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained only twenty or so sketches by John Robert Cozens (1752–97), so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour, a simple outline inscribed ‘Florence’ (see the image above), was almost certainly purchased at Cozens’ studio sale in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827).2 As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection, now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). The tracing was probably made from a sketch executed during Cozens’ first trip to Italy, between 1776 and 1779, rather than his second visit to the city, in September 1783. The latter visit seems to have been an altogether more hurried affair, though it did result in some sketches that were worked up by the Monro School artists (TG0746 and TG0747).

The bridge known to eighteenth-century visitors had been rebuilt in the mid-sixteenth century, after its predecessor was damaged in one of the periodic floods suffered by the city. The tower to the right, the fourteenth-century campanile of the church of the Ognissanti, illustrates the dangers of working at two removes from an on-the-spot sketch. The fenestration is already incorrect in Cozens’ tracing, and the artists at Monro’s house had no alternative but to repeat the error: the openings should decrease from three to two and then to one below that.

As with a comparable watercolour in terms of level of finish and a more extensive palette, Rome: The Ludovisi Gardens (TG0563), this Florentine view appears to be a good example of where sale room pressure – Turner being the more commercially successful name – has distorted the attribution of a Monro School work. It is true that Turner’s colouring is more carefully worked than was often the case, with a wider range of tones and a beautifully realised set of reflections in the water, but there is still enough pencil work visible to suggest the possibility of Girtin’s involvement. And, certainly, there is no reason to suspect that the artists’ account of their joint practice at Monro’s house (as they described to Farington in 1798) does not hold true for this work too.

A copy of this drawing is pasted into a collection of watercolours painted from Monro School collaborations known as ‘The LeGeyt Volume’ after a later owner May Le Geyt (d.1942) who was a descendent of Dr Thomas Monro (Lacy Scott & Knight, 11 March 2017, lot 1464 (p.8)).  One of the drawings is inscribed ‘J. Monro’, presumably John Monro (1801-80) the fourth son of the doctor and he may have been the author of all of the sheets in the book. Some of the drawings are dated 1827 and 1837 suggesting that the copies were made both prior to the 1833 sale, whilst others, as in this case, were painted from material retained by the Monro family.

1794 - 1797

Florence: The Palazzo Vecchio, Seen from the Cascine Park


1794 - 1797

Florence: The Convent of Monte Oliveto, from the Banks of the Arno


1794 - 1797

Rome: The Ludovisi Gardens


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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