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

Naples: Solimena’s Villa and Pine Trees

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0713: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Naples: Solimena's Villa and Pine Trees, 1794–97, graphite, watercolour and scratching out on paper, 18 × 26 cm, 7 ⅛ × 10 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Solimena's Villa and Pine Trees, Naples, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 14.9 × 24.4 cm, 5 ⅞ × 9 9 ⅙ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4511).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Naples: Solimena’s Villa and Pine Trees
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper
18 × 26 cm, 7 ⅛ × 10 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2007


Thos. Agnew & Sons; Charles Hadfield; Sotheby's, 19 November 1981, lot 174 as 'A Villa near Naples' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, unsold; Sotheby’s, 22 November 2007, lot 130 as 'Pini di Solimena Col la Sua Villa, Naples' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £15,500

About this Work

This view of a villa surrounded by pine trees was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above) inscribed with a note that it was the country residence of the painter Francesco Solimena (1657–1747). It was produced at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), where Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) 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’. The majority of the resulting watercolours saw the two artists engaged in a unique collaboration; as they later recalled, Girtin ‘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

Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained only twenty or so sketches by Cozens, so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour, a simple outline inscribed ‘Pini di Solimene col la sua Villa – aug 18.’, was almost certainly purchased at Cozens’ studio sale in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827).2 As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection, now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). The source drawing was traced by Cozens himself from an on-the-spot sketch he made in 1782 on a second visit to Italy (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.239), when the artist travelled with his patron William Beckford (1760–1844) and stayed in the Naples area for four months. The sketch is contained in the second of seven sketchbooks that survive from the trip (The Whitworth, Manchester (D.1975.5.11)) and it was presumably traced by Cozens because the books were retained by Beckford.

Solimena was the most successful Neapolitan artist of his day, and he lived in some luxury in a palace in Naples itself and a villa at Barra. It is presumably the latter building that is shown here, though another Villa Solimena is also to be found in nearby Torre del Greco. Both villas were within easy reach of the country residence at Portici of the British envoy Sir William Hamilton (1730–1803), where Cozens and the Beckford party stayed in August 1782.

The bulk of the watercolours sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, this work was still listed as solely by Turner in 2007, when it last appeared on the art market (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not entirely surprising given that the watercolour has been quite heavily worked by Turner with a full palette of colours, which has effaced much of Girtin’s characteristic pencil work. Arguably, just enough of the artist’s inventive touches are still apparent, particularly in the building, to point to Girtin’s involvement in its production, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from a Cozens drawing; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical practice of replication and produce something that approximates to a finished work.

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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