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

Florence: The View from the Boboli Gardens across the Valley of the Arno

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0752a: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Florence: The View from the Boboli Gardens across the Valley of the Arno, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 17.8 × 23.2 cm, 7 × 9 ⅛ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
Title
  • Florence: The View from the Boboli Gardens across the Valley of the Arno
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
18.1 × 23.2 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Tuscany

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0752a
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue

Provenance

Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, probably Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 104, as 'The convent at Camaldoli, Florence, Brescia, &c. 6' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Rogers', £9 9s; probably Samuel Rogers (1763–1855); then by descent to his great-nephew, Henry Rogers (c.1823–78); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 21 May 1878, lot 138 as 'View from the Grand Duke’s Gardens, Florence' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Gibson Cray, 9 gns; Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 14 May 1881, lot 184 as 'A View from the Boboli Gardens' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Noseda', £50 8s; ... Spink & Son Ltd, London, 1959; Christie's, 4 November 1975, lot 21 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by P & D Colnaghi & Co., 200 gns; a US private collection; then by descent; Sotheby's, New York, 25 January 2023, lot 57 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, $78,120; a British private collection

Exhibition History

Colnaghi’s, 1976, no.85

Bibliography

Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.74

About this Work

This view south east from the Boboli gardens in Florence towards the valley of the Arno 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

The View from the Boboli Gardens, across theVal d'Arno

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed ‘In the Boboli at Florence – Septr.20’, meaning that it was made on the return from the artist’s second trip to the Continent, in the autumn of 1783 (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.383). 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 the artist’s 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 view from the Boboli gardens in Florence. 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 worked from tracings of the sketchbook views.

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were listed as by Turner alone, and this generally remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In a case such as this where the watercolour has been quite heavily worked by Turner with a full palette of colours much of Girtin’s characteristic pencil work has been effaced. Arguably, just enough of the artist’s inventive touches are still apparent, particularly in the buildings and the middle ground, to point to Girtin’s involvement in its 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.

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.22)). 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, as in this case, whilst others were painted from material retained by the Monro family.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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