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

Lake Nemi, with Genzano and the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0627: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Nemi, with Genzano and the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 28.3 × 42.5 cm, 11 ⅛ × 16 ¾ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.35-1934).

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)
  • Lake Nemi, with Genzano and the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
28.3 × 42.5 cm, 11 ⅛ × 16 ¾ in

'Turner' on the back; 'Cesarin Palace' on the back; 'Genzano' on the back

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2017


Edith Mary Burke Powell (Lady Powell, née Wood) (1848–1934); bequeathed to the Museum, 1934

Exhibition History

London, 1976, no.65 as ’Monro School Copy of a drawing by J. R. Cozens’


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

About this Work

This view of a corner of Lake Nemi, with Genzano and the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini located on the lip of the crater above, 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 Nemi

Figure 1.
Thomas Jones (1742–1803), Lake Nemi, 1777, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 28.6 × 42.8 cm, 11 ¼ × 16 ⅞ in. British Museum, London (1984,0609.12).

Digital image courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

The view of Lake Nemi, which was popular with a generation of British artists beginning with Richard Wilson (1713/14–82), was taken from near the terrace of the Capuchin convent, looking south towards Genzano. It was from here that John Robert Cozens (1752–97) made a sketch (Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (44/12/9)) from which he produced at least seven watercolour views (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.141). The Monro School view, however, differs in a series of small details that are, nonetheless, sufficient to make it clear that the Cozens composition was not the source here. The appearance of the buildings on the hill indicates that the view was taken from slightly closer to and from further down the hill – a matter of metres away, but enough to account for a very different foreground. The natural assumption here is that Cozens experimented with a different view and that the Monro School artists had access to this in the form of an untraced outline drawing to produce their copy. However, and to my great surprise, an alternative option has become apparent during the preparation of this online catalogue. A watercolour that Thomas Jones (1742–1803) began on 15 May 1777 (see figure 1) bears a striking similarity to the Monro School copy down to the replication of topographical details in the distance, and the inclusion of the same foreground of rocks and foliage, so that at the very least it must have been made from the same spot as the source for this watercolour. Overlaying images of the two works shows such a close congruence of forms, however, that there is a very real possibility that Jones, and not Cozens, was the source here. Jones made an outline copy of the drawing that the paper historian Peter Bower has dated to the early 1790s (see figure 2), and superimposing an image of it on the Monro School watercolour displays the same pattern of similarities (Sumner and Smith, 2003, p.271). Is it possible, therefore, that Jones was one of those men mentioned in Farington’s account of Monro’s activities as a patron ‘who lend him their outlines for the purpose of copying’ (Farington, Diary, 30 December 1794)? Although there are no other known links between Monro and Jones, this does indeed seem the likeliest explanation for the appearance of the Monro School copy.

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 attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). It is not quite clear why the attribution of this work has remained hedged with question marks, therefore. The blue and grey washes of colour are entirely characteristic of Turner’s work for Monro, whilst the clearly visible pencil work offers plenty of evidence of Girtin’s involvement in the work’s production. The quality of the drawing may not be the very highest, but an unevenness was perhaps inevitable when a patron encouraged a degree of mass production based on a division of labour.

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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