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

Genzano: The Palazzo Sforza Cesarini

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0626: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Genzano: The Palazzo Sforza Cesarini, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 18.4 × 26 cm, 7 ¼ × 10 ¼ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 37 (D36450).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Genzano: The Palazzo Sforza Cesarini
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
18.4 × 26 cm, 7 ¼ × 10 ¼ in
Mount Dimensions
36.3 × 49.5 cm, 14 ¼ × 19 ½ in

‘Entrance to Nemi’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin (pasted down, but transcribed by a later hand on the lower right of the mount)

Part of
Object Type
Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 78 as ‘A book containing 62 interesting sketches in the neighbourhood of Rome and Naples, by Turner, in Indian ink and blue’; bought by Thomas Griffith on behalf of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), £21; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1228 as '"Entrance to Nemi"' by Thomas Girtin; Shanes, 2016a, p.98 as 'Entrance to Nemi 'by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner; Turner Online as 'Nemi: A Gateway into the Town' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini in Genzano is mounted in an album of watercolours bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 78). The sixty-four drawings were the outcome of a unique collaboration between Girtin and Turner working together at Monro’s London home at the Adelphi. Here the artists 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

As with many of the views of the Roman Campagna completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the source of this image of the seventeenth-century palace. In general, Girtin and Turner worked from compositions by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and, more specifically, from sketches and tracings that he made during or after his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779. The auction of the artist’s work held in July 1794 contained twenty-seven ‘books of sketches’ and many hundreds of drawings made on his travels and, as Kim Sloan has argued, given that Monro’s posthumous sale included only a few sketches by Cozens, the patron must have borrowed much of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). In this case, as is all too common, the sketch either has not survived or has not been recognised as Cozens’ work. The long, thin profile of the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini is a prominent feature of many of the views of Lake Nemi by Cozens and his contemporaries, and it also appears in at least one of the Monro School watercolours (TG0627). This more unconventional close-up view, with the town gate to the left, does not appear to have any precedents, however, and this would seem to be another case of Monro commissioning a finished watercolour from a sketch that otherwise would have remained unrealised.

The album containing this drawing was sold in 1833 as the work of Turner, but the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for the watercolours, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1228; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave much of the pencil work showing through. Girtin’s inventive and fluent hand is clearly apparent throughout the drawing, though not in the sky, which, unusually for the monochrome Monro School subjects, is lightly washed in. In general, I am more than happy to follow Wilton’s dual attribution of such works, but in this case the blocky application of dark areas over a lighter layer in the foreground to create semi-abstract patterns, combined with the presence of silhouetted figure in the archway, is more typical of Girtin’s style around 1797, and it may be that Turner was not involved in the work’s production. Making pencil outlines of landscape subjects presumably took less time than colouring them, so that if Girtin’s attendance at Monro’s house matched Turner’s, he would no doubt have had a number of opportunities to contribute to the process of enhancing his own drawings.

1794 - 1797

Lake Nemi, with Genzano and the Cesarini-Sforza Palace


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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