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

Naples: The View from Sir William Hamilton's Villa at Portici

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0711: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Naples: The View from Sir William Hamilton's Villa at Portici, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 17.8 × 22.9 cm, 7 × 9 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F05206-0067

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Naples: The View from Sir William Hamilton's Villa at Portici, graphite on laid paper, 18.7 × 26.4 cm, 7 ⅜ × 10 ⅜ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4460).

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 View from Sir William Hamilton's Villa at Portici
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
17.8 × 22.9 cm, 7 × 9 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Sir C. Nicholson; then by descent; given to an anonymous collector; then by descent; Phillips, 11 November 1997, lot 11 as 'View of the Bay of Naples' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, £2,800

About this Work

This view, looking towards Naples from the villa of Sir William Hamilton (1730–1803) at Portici, near the ruins of Herculaneum, 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

Naples from Sir William Hamilton's Villa at Portici

The view is based on a drawing by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above), which in turn was copied from an on-the-spot sketch he made in 1782 on his second visit to Naples (see figure 1), when he accompanied his patron William Beckford (1760–1844) on a trip to the city. The two drawings by Cozens are, however, mirror images of each other, and it appears that the artist made a copy in reverse of his own on-the-spot drawing in preparation for the production of a soft-ground etching. Reversing the original means that when it is copied onto the soft ground applied on the etching plate, the image will appear in the correct sense when it is printed. Importantly for our purposes, the artists at the Monro School followed the later copy and produced an image that reverses the proper sense so that the city of Naples appears to the left and the view consequently looks south east rather than north west. This watercolour provides further evidence, therefore, that the Monro School artists worked not from the on-the-spot records found in the seven sketchbooks that survive from Cozens’ tour (The Whitworth, Manchester (D.1975.4.10)) but from the copies or tracings that make up the album now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. 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 was presumably purchased at the sale of ‘Mr COZENS’ in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827),2 and, as Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont then mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91).

The reversal of the image has caused problems with identifying the various elements of the view, but fortunately the on-the-spot sketch is inscribed with a key. Crucially, it notes that it was taken ‘From Sr. W Hamilton’s Villa at Portici. – August 12’, thus placing it at the beginning of the Beckford party’s stay in Naples with the British envoy. Hamilton owned a number of properties, including a villa near to the royal palace at Portici. Knowing that the image has been reversed, it is possible to recognise other landmarks, including the Castel dell’Ovo (on the promontory to the right) and the monumental charterhouse of San Martino (on the hill in the centre).

The bulk of the Monro School copies sold at the patron’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone. Although many have since been accepted as the result of the joint efforts of Girtin and Turner, especially since the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, others, as here, have remained under Turner’s name (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The work is known only from a poor-quality black and white image and it is very difficult to assess Girtin’s involvement. All that can be said with any confidence, therefore, is that there is nothing to suggest that the watercolour is anything other than a typical collaborative effort between Turner and Girtin.

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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