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

Lake Nemi, with Genzano in the Distance

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0632: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Nemi, with Genzano in the Distance, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 41.9 × 55.2 cm, 16 ½ × 21 ¾ in. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Purchased as a gift of the Marvin Gelber Fund and as a gift in memory of Alan Flacks, 2001 (2001/50).

Photo courtesy of Art Gallery of Ontario, Purchased as a Gift of the Marvin Gelber Fund and as a gift in memory of Alan Flacks, 2001 (2001/50) (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Nemi, with Genzano in the Distance
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
41.9 × 55.2 cm, 16 ½ × 21 ¾ in

‘Nemi, with Gensano’ on the back, by (?) Thomas Girtin

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Exhibition Catalogue


Manning Gallery, London, 1974; ... Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1986

Exhibition History

London, 1974c, no.B23 as ’Lake Nemi by J. M. W. Turner after J. R. Cozens’; Agnew’s, 1986, no.86 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Wilton, 1984a, p.19 as by 'Thomas Girtin and J.M.W. Turner'; Powell, 1987, p.2 as by 'J. M. W. Turner and Thomas Girtin'

About this Work

This view of Lake Nemi, looking south west towards Genzano in the distance, 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).

Lake Nemi, Looking towards Genzano

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 Lake Nemi. 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 watercolour resembles one of his most popular scenes (see figure 1), it was taken from a different viewpoint. 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 either been subsequently lost or simply not recognised. Assuming that the source of the Monro School work was a sketch by Cozens, it is perhaps surprising that he himself did not develop it as a finished watercolour because it displays perfectly the distinctive circular form of the lake and its smooth waters, which in Roman times had led it to be called the Speculum Dianae, or Mirror of Diana. In contrast, the view from closer to the town of Nemi interrupts the circle, and one can well see why Monro might have wished to acquire a finished watercolour of a more developed composition.

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). In this case there is just enough pencil work visible, particularly in the lighter highlighted areas in the middle ground, for Girtin’s contribution to have been generally acknowledged. Therefore, even though the work is more richly coloured and closely finished than is generally the case, with a fine sky and a subtle set of reflections in the water to enhance the unified effect of the whole, there is no reason to suspect that it departs from the division of labour that the two artists themselves described to Farington in 1798.

1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The Villa d’Este, Looking South West


1794 - 1797

Lake Albano, Viewed from the Bergantino


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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