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

La Bâtiaz Castle, near Martigny (Caesar’s Tower)

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0458: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), La Bâtiaz Castle, near Martigny (Caesar's Tower), 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 23.5 × 35 cm, 9 ¼ × 13 ¾ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1685-1871).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • La Bâtiaz Castle, near Martigny (Caesar’s Tower)
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
23.5 × 35 cm, 9 ¼ × 13 ¾ in

'Caesars Tower near Martinach / in the Pais de Valais' on the back, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; River Scenery; Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 80 as 'A scrap-book, containing 66 sketches in Switzerland, in blue and Indian ink' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Hixon', £21 11s 6d; ... William Smith (1808–76); presented to the Museum, 1871


Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.385 as 'Monro School Copy, perhaps by Turner'

About this Work

This view of Bâtiaz Castle, near Martigny, colloquially known as Caesar’s Tower, displays many of the signs that mark the unique collaboration between Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). Here they 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

Caesar's Tower, near Martigny

The view of Bâtiaz Castle was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.9), one of fifty-seven works that he probably executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776. It is highly unlikely that Monro had access to Cozens’ finished watercolours, however, and the work was presumably copied either from the on-the-spot drawing made on 31 August 1776 or from one of the tracings the artist was in the habit of producing from his own compositions. Cozens’ sketches from 1776 have not survived, but they may have been large in scale and little more than summary outlines, and that would explain why the Monro School copy is the same size as the watercolour but differs in the distribution of light on the vegetation and the tower, as well as the clouds in the distance, all of which would have been a matter of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing. In all, there are as many as sixty Monro School views of the Alpine scenery of France, Switzerland and northern Italy that can, with varying degrees of certainty, be associated with Cozens’ first trip to the Continent in 1776.

The exact division of labour in the Monro School watercolours is rarely straightforward, but in this case some of Girtin’s pencil work is clearly visible beneath Turner’s washes of colour, and there is a whole area that has been left uncoloured to the right. The rather stiff outlines are quite crude in comparison with the more delicate touch Girtin used to capture architectural details. However, the pencil work is consistent with the treatment of vegetation in other unfinished Monro School works, such as the view of Naples (TG0659), and it is a useful reminder that the artist did not invest any more time or effort than was necessary to complete an essentially mechanical task.

Another Monro School version of the Cozens composition is known from a black and white photograph. The quality of the work seems to be poor, even though it has been attributed to Turner. Because it omits part of the tree to the left, it appears to be an anonymous copy of Girtin and Turner’s watercolour, presumably made at Monro’s house.

1794 - 1797

Naples: Castel Sant’Elmo and the Convent of San Martino


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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