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

Lake Vico

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0635: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Vico, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 31.8 × 45.2 cm, 12 ½ × 17 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1958,0712.394).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Vico
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
31.8 × 45.2 cm, 12 ½ × 17 ¾ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna; Lake Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick (1769–1859); then by descent to John, Lord Northwick; his posthumous sale, Sotheby’s, 6 July 1921, lot 179 as 'The Lake of Albano' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.47), £28 plus five per cent commission, for Robert Wylie Lloyd (1868–1958) (lent to London, 1922); bequeathed to the Museum, 1958

Exhibition History

London, 1922, no.86 as ’Lake of Albano by J. M. W. Turner after J. R. Cozens’


Sloan, 1998, p.145 as 'Lake Albano' by 'J.M.W. Turner ... (Monro school, after John Robert Cozens)'; British Museum, Collection as 'Lake Albano' by Joseph Mallord William Turner after John Robert Cozens (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This large view of Lake Vico in Lazio, central Italy, 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 Vico

This drawing – which, until work began on the compilation of this online catalogue, was known as ‘Lake Albano’ – is based on a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that he realised as two watercolours (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.163), the closest of which dates from 1777–78 (see figure 1). There is no question that the Cozens watercolour served as the model for the Monro School work since it was part of the cargo of the Westmorland, which was captured by French naval vessels before it reached England and the drawing’s purchaser, Francis Basset (1757–1835) (Sánchez-Jáuregui and Wilcox, 2012, pp.115–25). The differences between the Cozens watercolour and the Monro School work would, in any case, have suggested that Girtin and Turner worked instead from a sketch or tracing that the older artist made during or after his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779. Few of these survive, but 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 the bulk of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). The view is from the south-west part of the volcanic lake, looking past Monte Fogliano, and the distant buildings on the rim of the crater have been identified as the abbey of San Martino and the Palazzo Doria Pamphili (Sánchez-Jáuregui and Wilcox, 2012, p.193).

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, and this generally 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). This example has retained its attribution to Turner alone and, indeed, there are few signs of Girtin’s characteristic pencil work to pin down with any certainty his involvement in the production (Sloan, 1998, p.145). However, equally, there is nothing to suggest that Turner must have produced the pencil underdrawing as well as colouring the work. The point is that in such a broad landscape, where the pencil work plays a less significant part in the overall effect than in an architectural subject, there are simply fewer opportunities for Girtin to shine, and ultimately I do not see any reason to think that the work departs from the division of labour that the two artists themselves described to Farington in 1798.

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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