For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Robert Cozens

Naples: Castel Sant'Elmo and the Convent of San Martino

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0659: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Naples: Castel Sant'Elmo and the Convent of San Martino, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 41.1 × 56.2 cm, 16 ⅛ × 22 ⅛ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV 34 (D36555).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Naples: Castel Sant'Elmo and the Convent of San Martino
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
41.1 × 56.2 cm, 16 ⅛ × 22 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

London, 1989b, no.23 as ’Montecassino’; London, 2002, no.97 as ’View of Monte Casino, Italy, after John Robert Cozens?’


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1236 as 'Monte Cassino (?), between Rome and Naples' by Thomas Girtin; Wilton, 1984a, pp.13–15 as 'Montecassino (after J.R. Cozens?) by "Monro School"'; Turner Online as 'Naples: The Convent of San Martino' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the castle of Saint Elmo and the monumental charterhouse of San Martino overlooking the city of Naples was bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). It is one of several hundred drawings that resulted from the unique collaboration between Girtin and Turner at Monro’s home at the Adelphi in London. 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

Naples: The Convent of San Martino and Castel Sant'Elmo from the Mole

As with many of the Monro School drawings of Neapolitan scenes, it has not been possible to trace the precise source for this view looking up to the hill of Vomero towards two of the city’s most prominent landmarks. But, as was generally the case, it is very likely to have been a sketch made by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) on one of his visits to Naples, either in 1777 or in 1782–83. The view is close enough to a sketch Cozens made in Naples in October 1782 (see figure 1) both to strongly suggest that he was the source for the Monro School subject and to establish beyond doubt that the scene depicted is not Monte Cassino, as was once thought. This view is taken from a different station, however, and it is worked on a larger scale, which suggests that its source was a lost sketch drawn on the earlier Naples visit, when Cozens generally worked on a more generous scale when drawing from nature. 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 made works such as this (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).2

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were attributed to Turner alone, but the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin was responsible for watercolours such as this example, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1236; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This work, in its unfinished state, was of particular significance for Wilton’s arguments in favour of a joint attribution of the majority of the Monro School drawings in the Turner Bequest. Thus, it vividly illustrates the way in which Turner interpreted his collaborator’s outlines in terms of fluid washes of a simple range of greys and blues, with areas left untouched for the highlights. The unfinished nature of the foreground also demonstrates Girtin’s typical use of a broader touch for areas of vegetation compared with the crisper broken lines he employed for the architecture in the middle ground. It is not clear why the watercolour was left unfinished, though it is possible that Turner worked on more than one drawing simultaneously and that he simply ran out of time. The division of labour at Monro’s house was such that the two artists did not both have to be present at the same time, and it may be that a stock of Girtin’s pencil drawings sometimes built up ahead of the colouring process.

On a technical note, Peter Bower has identified the support used here as a white wove thin large post writing paper and, as indicated by the watermark – ‘J WHATMAN’ – it was manufactured by James Whatman the Younger (1741–98) at the Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent (Smith, 2002b, p.124; Bower, Report). The same watermark appears on a number of Monro School drawings, and, with just a few exceptions, it appears to have been the default support for the commissions; it was presumably supplied by the patron himself.

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).
  2. 2 A full record of the sale is available in the Documents section of the Archive (1794 – Item 1)

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.