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

Naples: Looking across the Bay towards Vesuvius from Mergellina

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0653: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Naples: Looking across the Bay towards Vesuvius from Mergellina, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 27 × 42 cm, 10 ⅝ × 16 ½ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 21 (D36542).

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: Looking across the Bay towards Vesuvius from Mergellina
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
27 × 42 cm, 10 ⅝ × 16 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in December 2017


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

Fourth Loan Collection, 1896–1931, no.4; Adelaide, 2013, no.6


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1235 as 'Bay of Naples, with Vesuvius' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This view from the port of Mergellina towards Naples, with the Castel dell’Ovo shown below the distant form of Vesuvius, 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

As with many of the Monro School drawings of Italian scenes, it has not been possible to trace the source for this view, which looks north east along the Neapolitan coast and therefore in the opposite direction to Naples: Santa Maria del Parto, Mergellina (TG0652). But, as was generally the case, it is 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. None of the many views of Naples that are included in the seven sketchbooks of material that are associated with Cozens’ second visit to the Continent resemble this scene, so it is likely that Girtin worked from a lost sketch from the earlier trip. The auction of Cozens’ 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).2 Cozens himself did not make a finished watercolour from this sketch, and this was perhaps the point of the exercise for the Monro School artists: the commission from Monro was to produce a different sort of commodity than the slight sketches that predominated at the 1794 studio sale.

This work was bought by Turner at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, where the bulk of the Monro School copies were listed as being by Turner alone. The cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin was responsible for watercolours such as this; however, more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1235; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In the online catalogue of the Turner Bequest, Wilton expresses some reservations about the quality of the washes, which he describes as ‘exceptionally perfunctory’ (in contrast to the ‘pencil drawing’, which is confidently ascribed to Girtin), and he concludes that it is tempting ‘to suppose that they were applied by a hand other than Turner’s’ (D36542). There is some truth in this, but Wilton still goes on to accept the joint attribution and this seems perfectly sensible. In general, I am inclined to believe that the sort of falling off of standards in the Monro School subjects, such as seen here, resulted from time pressures placed on Girtin and Turner rather than indicating the intervention of other, anonymous hands in the work. Moreover, the poor quality of a given watercolour, in itself, does not indicate that it departed from the division of labour that the two artists themselves described to Farington in 1798.

(?) 1797

Naples: Santa Maria del Parto, Mergellina


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)

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