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

Lake Nemi and the Town of Genzano

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0630: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Nemi and the Town of Genzano, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23.8 × 35.8 cm, 9 ⅜ × 14 ⅛ in. Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool (WAG 8142).

Photo courtesy of Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Nemi and the Town of Genzano
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23.8 × 35.8 cm, 9 ⅜ × 14 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna; Lake Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in December 2023


Elhanan Bicknell (1788-1861); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 29 April 1863, lot 39 as 'The Lake of Nemi' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Bicknell', £31 10s; Robert Strauss; the Fine Art Society, London; Cecil Francis Joseph Beausire (1898–1972); bequeathed to the Gallery, 1972

Exhibition History

Fine Art Society, 1961, no.59 as ’Lake Nemi’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Fine Art Society, 1964, no.12 as ’Lake Nemi and Genzano’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Liverpool, 1970, no.43


Finberg, 1961, p.35; Milner, 1990, pp.6–7

About this Work

This view towards Genzano, situated on the southern rim of the crater above Lake Nemi, 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’, 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 Perhaps because of the hours the artists kept, the resulting drawings were often small in scale and employed a restricted palette, but, as here, others were produced on a more substantial scale and finished to a degree that begins to match their studio watercolours (such as TG0596 and TG0613).

As is often the case with the views of the Roman Campagna completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the precise source of this image of Genzano. 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. However, though this composition resembles in general terms a number of his views of Lake Nemi, nothing exactly matches the Monro School view. This is not to say that Cozens was not the source here, though. 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 instance, as in so many others, the Cozens source has therefore either been subsequently lost or simply not recognised.

Cozens was just one of many British artists who depicted the picturesquely located town of Genzano, though the viewpoint adopted here, from the south east, was not a common choice. Although some of the town’s most familiar sites are visible, including the bell tower of Santa Maria della Cima, and the Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini to the right, with the tree-lined road leading to Ariccia beyond, the composition lacks some of the drama and pictorial interest of other views (such as TG0627 and TG0632).

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were attributed to Turner alone, and this remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint authorship of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This work has always been solely attributed to Turner, however, no doubt because it is comparatively heavily worked by the artist, so that any underlying pencil work by Girtin has largely been effaced. A richer palette than is usual, combined with a carefully worked sky and a fine set of reflections in the water, means that visually the work has more in common with Turner’s contemporary work for the open market than the copies he contributed to for Monro. Nonetheless, it is perfectly possible that the work began with an underdrawing by Girtin, and, other than Turner’s greater level of finish, there is nothing to suggest that the work departs from the artists’ general practice at Monro’s home, as they described to Farington in 1798.

1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The Villa d’Este, Looking South West


1794 - 1797

Lake Albano, Viewed from the Bergantino


1794 - 1797

Lake Nemi, with Genzano and the Cesarini-Sforza Palace


1794 - 1797

Lake Nemi, with Genzano in the Distance


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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