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

Lake Albano, Viewed from the Bergantino

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0613: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Albano, Viewed from the Bergantino, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 41.9 × 54.9 cm, 16 ½ × 21 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F05206-0009 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Albano, Viewed from the Bergantino
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
41.9 × 54.9 cm, 16 ½ × 21 ⅝ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna; Lake Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue; Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive


William George Rawlinson (1840–1928) (lent to London, 1887); Sir Augustus Moore Daniel (1866–1950) (Bell and Girtin, 1935); Sotheby's, 1 April 1976, lot 170 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Sotheby's, 7 July 1983, lot 89 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £2,420

Exhibition History

London, 1887, Black and White Room, no.9 as ’Study’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner; London, 1922, no.83 as ’Copy by J. M. W. Turner of J. R. Cozens’; Leicester Galleries, 1951, no.2


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.46

About this Work

This view of Lake Albano framed by an arch of the Bergantino, an ancient nymphaeum carved out of a natural cave, 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

Lake Albano from the Bergantino

The view through the arch to the lake of Albano is based on a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that he realised as a watercolour in 1790 (see figure 1). The Monro School image differs in a number of respects from the Cozens watercolour, however, and it is very unlikely that it would have been accessible to the two artists at Monro’s house. Instead, they would have worked from one of the sketches that Cozens made during his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779, though sadly few of these survive. 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 and no Roman views, the patron must have borrowed much of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). The idea that the Monro School works were based on Cozens’ watercolours, still occasionally repeated in sales catalogues, is clearly no longer tenable, therefore, not even when, as here, a finished work by him exists.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78), etching, 'Veduta della Spelonca ... Presso L'Imbocco dell'Emissario' (View of the Cave near the Mouth of the Emissario) for <i>Descrizione e Disegno Dell'Emissario del Lago Albano</i> (Description and Design of the Emissarium of Lake Albano), 1762, 40 x 62 cm, 15 ¾ x 24 ⅜ in. British Museum, London (1886,1124.189).

As was so often the case, Cozens’ choice of subject had a precedent in the work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78) (see figure 2), though his etching shows the interior of the sacred building dedicated to the nymph, rather than the view of the lake seen here. The cave was developed into a monument to the water nymph – the nymphaeum – in the first century AD, though its current name was probably derived from a type of sailing ship, the brigantino, when the structure was later used as a boathouse. Cozens certainly shows no interest in the Roman remains, whilst the Monro School artists, who presumably did not know the Piranesi print, appear to have misunderstood the nature of the view entirely, treating the arch as no more than a convenient framing device that improbably crosses over a road with no sense that the source material shows the view out from a cave.

The watercolour has not been seen in public since it was sold at auction in 1983 as by Turner working alone, and it is only known from a black and white photograph. As far as the attribution of the work is concerned, therefore, all that can be said with any degree of confidence is that it appears to be typical of one of the less carefully worked, larger watercolours produced at Monro’s house, and that there is no reason to suspect that the pencil work is not by Girtin or that the work’s production departs from the general practice described by the artists themselves to Farington in 1798. What is apparent, even from a far from clear photograph, is that there was not always enough time for the artists to master the challenge of recreating Cozens’ compositions: the perspective of the arch is far from satisfactory.

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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