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

Naples: View over the City from the Royal Palace at Capodimonte

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0660: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Naples: View over the City from the Royal Palace at Capodimonte, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 26.7 × 42.3 cm, 10 ½ × 16 ⅝ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV 15 (D36536).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
Title
  • Naples: View over the City from the Royal Palace at Capodimonte
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
26.7 × 42.3 cm, 10 ½ × 16 ⅝ in
Inscription

‘From the Kings palace at Capo de Monte’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin; 'St Martino' on the back, over the building; 'Capri' on the back, over the island

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0660
Description Source(s)
Viewed in December 2017

Provenance

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

Bibliography

Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1235 as '"From the King's Palace at Capo di Monte," Naples' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the city of Naples from Capodimonte 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

As with many of the Monro School drawings of Italian scenes, it has not been possible to trace the source for this highly worked view of Naples, with the island of Capri visible in the distance. 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 fact that the Monro School view is on a relatively large scale tilts the balance towards the earlier, less well-documented trip, when it was generally Cozens’ practice to sketch on a more generous scale. 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 worked, though, as is so often the case, the outline used here has been lost (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).2 A more panoramic view of Naples from a similar position at Capodimonte, with Capri seen in the distance, has in the past been attributed to John Robert Cozens (Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1003)). When it was in his possession Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) noted on the back that it ‘Looks like a rough sketch by JRC’ and although it is currently listed as by an ‘Unknown Artist’ the attribution to Cozens is well worth reconsidering. Indeed, one can well imagine that this is exactly the sort of monochrome drawing washed on the spot that was made available to Girtin and Turner by Monro especially as its measurements broadly conform to Cozens' larger format sketches (15.6 × 44.8 cm, 6 ⅛ × 17 ⅝ in). Moreover, the watercolour is known to have come from Monro's collection having been presented around 1929 to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) by the collector's descendent, May Le Geyt (d.1942).

The hill of Capodimonte, the site of the royal palace, provided artists with a range of elevated views over the city of Naples, and Cozens produced at least five watercolours of a similar, albeit more concentrated, scene (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.325). However, Cozens did not make a finished watercolour of this particular scene himself, and this was perhaps the point of the exercise for the Monro School artists; theirs was a commission to produce a different sort of commodity than the slight sketches that predominated at the 1794 studio sale.

Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained a number of Neapolitan scenes attributed to Turner, many of which were acquired by the artist himself, as here. The cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for watercolours such as this example, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1235; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when areas are left untouched to act as highlights and Girtin’s fine pencil work is clear to see across the buildings in the middle ground. In contrast, the work’s faded condition, the result of being exhibited for too long at high light levels, has sadly compromised the effect of Turner’s blue and grey washes.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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