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

Naples: The Fifteenth-Century City Walls, with the Dome of Santa Caterina a Formiello

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0727: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Naples: The Fifteenth-Century City Walls, with the Dome of Santa Caterina a Formiello, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 15.2 × 22.7 cm, 6 × 8 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ in. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (F69-8/2).

Photo courtesy of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Walls of Naples, near Pont Nuovo, graphite on laid paper, 14.9 × 24.1 cm, 5 ⅞ × 9 ½ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4550).

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: The Fifteenth-Century City Walls, with the Dome of Santa Caterina a Formiello
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
15.2 × 22.7 cm, 6 × 8 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Collection website


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 125 as 'The walls of Naples' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Moon, Boys', £3; ... Sotheby's, 27 June 1968, lot 9 as 'A View of St. Peter’s, Rome, with ramparts by the Tiber' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £300; Mr and Mrs Milton McGreevy; presented to the Museum, 1969

Exhibition History

Memphis, 1979, no.11 as ’St. Peter’s, Rome’


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.63; Museum Website as 'St. Peter's Rome ... Attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner' (Accessed 09/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the fifteenth-century city walls of Naples, hitherto mistakenly identified as showing Rome and the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above). 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 ‘Wall of Naples near Ponte nuovo – Octr 19’, 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 on a second visit to Italy, in 1782 (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.293), 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 third of seven sketchbooks that survive from the trip (The Whitworth, Manchester (D.1975.6.29)), and it was presumably traced by Cozens because the books were retained by Beckford. Cozens made a series of studies of the imposing city walls of Naples, which were built in the fifteenth century, including this view of a stretch to the east with the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello prominent behind. The moat has long since been filled in and the walls themselves were demolished to accommodate the expanding city.

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, and, 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 until the preparation of this online catalogue (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not entirely surprising given that the watercolour has been quite heavily worked with a relatively full palette of colours, effacing much of Girtin’s characteristic pencil work. However, new photography has clearly revealed Girtin’s varied touch in a predominantly architectural subject. The city walls, in particular, feature a number of his highly characteristic marks, which are either almost abstract in their form or resemble letters – ‘u’, ‘v’ and ‘m’ all occur prominently. Rather more surprisingly, the improved image has also raised the distinct possibility that the watercolour washes are the work of Girtin and that Turner was therefore not involved in the view’s production. The highly economical treatment of the figures, in particular, is characteristic of Girtin’s work, as is the laconic pattern-making in the round tower. Furthermore, I would also point to the palette and, particularly, the use of an olive green in the water as being typical of Girtin’s work around 1797. Monro’s posthumous sale included a number of ‘views in Italy’ that were attributed to just Girtin, including ‘Three, by Girtin, after Cozens’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 35). Whilst it is not possible to prove the point, this view, together with works such as A River Scene, Possibly in the Roman Campagna (TG0793), is a credible candidate for listing as works produced solely by Girtin.

A copy of this drawing is to be found in a collection of watercolours painted from Monro School collaborations known as ‘The LeGeyt Volume’ after a later owner May Le Geyt (d.1942) who was a descendent of Dr Thomas Monro (Lacy Scott & Knight, 11 March 2017, lot 1464 (p.25)). One of the drawings is inscribed ‘J. Monro’, presumably John Monro (1801-80) the fourth son of the doctor and he may have been the author of all of the sheets in the book. Some of the drawings are dated 1827 and 1837 suggesting that the copies were made both prior to the 1833 sale, as in this case, whilst others were painted from material retained by the Monro family.

1794 - 1797

A River Scene, Possibly in the Roman Campagna


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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