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

Florence: The View from the Grand Duke's Garden

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG1463: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797), Florence: The View from the Grand Duke's Garden, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 15.5 × 24.5 cm, 6 ⅛ × 9 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Philips

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Florence: The View from the Grand Duke's Garden
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
15.5 × 24.5 cm, 6 ⅛ × 9 ⅝ in

'View from the Grand Duke's Garden, Florence, Apenines in distance' on the back, by (?) Thomas Girtin

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Phillips, 23 April 1990, lot 31 as 'View from the Grand Duke's Garden, Florence, Apenines in distance' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This watercolour showing what, according to the inscription on the back, is a ‘View from the Grand Duke’s Garden, Florence, Apenines in distance’, appears to have been made at the house of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97). Here 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 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

View from the Grand Duke's Garden, Florence

Although stylistically this work can be related with confidence to a sizeable group of more fully worked and colourful watercolours derived from sketches by Cozens, it poses a number of questions. The first relates to its ostensible source (see figure 1), an on-the-spot sketch made by Cozens during the return leg of his second trip to the Continent, in the autumn of 1783 (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.398). The form of the dome to the right and the main components of the landscape conform to the same elements seen in the Monro School watercolour, but the very slight on-the-spot sketch would not have provided enough information for Girtin and Turner to produce their more detailed view. Could it be, therefore, that in this one instance, the artists had access to a more finished sketch than either the view in the sketchbook or a tracing taken from it? Another query relates to the precise subject of the watercolour. The on-the spot sketch was made in the course of an excursion along the river Arno going upriver and east, and it is inscribed ‘Arno Septr.25. Grand Duke’s Palace’. The watercolour, in contrast, notes the subject as being the ‘Grand Duke’s Garden, Florence’, with the Apennines in the distance. This is presumably the Boboli Gardens, which, though in Florence, cannot be described as being on the Arno. Faced with such a contradiction, I suspect that the Monro School subject actually shows a continuation of the scene depicted in Florence: The View from the Boboli Gardens (TG0752a) and that the dome shape seen in both the on-the-spot sketch and the watercolour is coincidental; this watercolour is therefore likely to have been based on another, untraced view by Cozens, showing the view from the gardens looking east.

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were described as being 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 this case, some of the pencil work remains evident in areas where Turner has left the paper untouched to create highlights, and there is just enough of this visible to suggest that Girtin was involved in the view’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.

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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