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

Lake Como, from the Villa Giulia, near Bellagio

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0502: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Como, from the Villa Giulia, near Bellagio, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 24.1 × 35.2 cm, 9 ½ × 13 ⅞ in. Gallery Oldham (9.88/20).

Photo courtesy of Gallery Oldham (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Como, from the Villa Giulia, near Bellagio
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
24.1 × 35.2 cm, 9 ½ × 13 ⅞ in

'Convent near the Villa Julia Lago di Como, J.M. Turner R.A.' on the back

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The North; Lake Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 115, one of three as 'Lake of Como' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Moon, Boys', £7 10s ... Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 14 May 1881, lot 171; bought by 'Agnew', £19 19s; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.6099); bought by Charles E. Lees (1840–94), 11 November 1881, £34; presented to the Gallery, 1888

Exhibition History

Oldham, 1883, no.267; Lugano, 1998, no.263


Coombs, 1993, p.22 as 'Convent at Villa Giulia, Lake Como', 'Attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner'

About this Work

This view north from near Bellagio, looking towards the junction of the two arms of Lake Como, 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

Although no source has been found in the extant works of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), there is little doubt that this watercolour, one of six Monro School views of Lake Como, was copied from a composition the artist sketched on his journey to Italy in 1776. Another Monro School view of the lake, possibly showing Como itself (TG0503), was copied from a sketch that Cozens worked up into a finished watercolour, and there is no reason to suspect that the rest of the Como subjects had a different source. Cozens’ sketches from 1776 have not survived, but they were probably large in scale and little more than summary outlines, which would have needed careful interpretation to create the ‘finished drawings’ that Monro required for his collection. 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.

Establishing the division of labour within a Monro School drawing is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave much of the pencil work showing through. Although the nature of the subject did not require much detail, Girtin’s hand is apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple palette of blues and greys. Sadly, the paper has been discoloured due to intense exposure to light during long periods of public exhibition. Another inferior version of the composition, with the same dimensions, is in a private collection (Exhibitions: Phillips, 31 May 1997, lot 21). This appears to have been copied from the Monro School watercolour, rather than a Cozens sketch, as the latter generally lack the complex reflections shown here.

1794 - 1797

Lake Como


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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