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

Florence: The Palazzo Vecchio from the Boboli Gardens, with Fiesole in the Distance

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0752: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Florence: The Palazzo Vecchio from the Boboli Gardens, with Fiesole in the Distance, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23.5 × 18 cm, 9 ¼ × 7 ⅛ in. Harrow School, London (1935.119).

Photo courtesy of The Keepers and Governors of Harrow School (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Florence: The Palazzo Vecchio from the Boboli Gardens, with Fiesole in the Distance
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23.5 × 18 cm, 9 ¼ × 7 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Tuscany

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in February 2020


John Muir Hetherington (1833–1908); his sale, Christie's, 1 May 1908, lot 126 as 'The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Gooden & Fox Ltd., £23 2s; Charles John Hegan (1845–1938); presented to the School, 1935

Exhibition History

Harrow, 1936, no.114 as ’Campanile, Siena, Italy’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Harrow, 2000, no.6 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Harrow, 2007, no.6 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.76; Mallalieu, 1985, p.207

About this Work

The Palazzo Vecchio from the Boboli Gardens, Florence, with Fiesole in the Distance

This view of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, with Fiesole in the distance, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1). 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

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed and dated ‘Pallazzo Vecchio from the Boboli Sept.27.’, and ‘Fiesole’ is identified in the distance by an annotation, meaning that the artist observed the view during the return leg of his second trip to the Continent, in the autumn of 1783 (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.401). The sketch is found in the sixth of the seven sketchbooks that are associated with a visit that began with a journey to Naples in the company of his patron William Beckford (1760–1844). It is unlikely that the Monro School watercolour was copied directly from the sketch by Cozens, however. It would have been uncharacteristic of Beckford to have lent the sketchbooks to Monro, and the existence of a large number of tracings of their contents by Cozens himself suggests that the patron, rather than the artist, retained the books. An album put together by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827), now in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, includes more than seventy tracings from on-the-spot drawings in the first three of the sketchbooks, and these provided the basis for at least thirty Monro School works. There are only five tracings from the next three books, but there is no reason to think that others did not exist, and it was presumably from these lost copies by Cozens that as many as thirty-five more watercolours were produced by Girtin and Turner, including this and at least four other views of Florence, including The Palazzo Vecchio, Seen from the Cascine Park (TG0746) and The View from the Boboli Gardens (TG0752a). The fact that the Monro School copies never follow either the shading or the distribution of light seen in the on-the-spot sketches, though they always replicate the basic outlines, further suggests that Girtin and Turner generally worked from a tracing of the sketchbook view, and surely that was the case here as well.

The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Seen from the Boboli Gardens

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, including five unspecified views of Florence (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 27 June 1833, lots 86, 104 and 107; Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lots 116 and 136), were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, this work is still listed as just by Turner (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not entirely surprising given that the watercolour has been quite heavily worked by Turner, which has effaced some of Girtin’s characteristic use of pencil. Arguably, just enough of the artist’s inventive touches are still apparent, particularly in the buildings in the middle ground, to point to his involvement in the work’s production, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from a Cozens drawing; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical practice of replication and produce something that approximates to a finished work. Cozens’ own watercolour of the scene (see figure 2) includes a fine sunset effect, which renders the buildings and the trees as atmospheric silhouettes, in stark contrast to the frankly prosaic Monro School drawing.

A copy of this drawing is to be found in 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.26)). 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 View from the Boboli Gardens across the Valley of the Arno


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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