For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Robert Cozens

On the River Tiber, at Acqua Acetosa

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0647: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), On the River Tiber, at Acqua Acetosa, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 21 × 29.5 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ⅝ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 52 (D36465).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • On the River Tiber, at Acqua Acetosa
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
21 × 29.5 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ⅝ in
Mount Dimensions
36.3 × 49.5 cm, 14 ¼ × 19 ½ in

'Acqua Acetosa' on the back, by Thomas Girtin (pasted down, but transcribed by a later hand on the lower right of the mount)

Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Modern Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 78 as ‘A book containing 62 interesting sketches in the neighbourhood of Rome and Naples, by Turner, in Indian ink and blue’; bought by Thomas Griffith on behalf of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £21; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1229 as '"Acqua Acetosa"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'On the River Acquacetosa' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the Tiber at Acqua Acetosa, looking upriver, is mounted in an album of watercolours bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 78). The sixty-four drawings were the outcome of a unique collaboration between Girtin and Turner working together at Monro’s London home at the Adelphi. Here the artists 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 the majority of the Italian views in Monro’s album, it has not been possible to trace the source of either this river scene or another watercolour showing Acqua Acetosa (TG0648). However, even though only a small proportion of the sketches that John Robert Cozens (1752–97) made during his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779 survive, it is still likely that one of the numerous ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ that he executed during his time in Rome provided the model here. Monro’s posthumous sale may have contained only a few sketches by Cozens, but, as Kim Sloan has argued, the patron must have borrowed outlines or tracings from purchasers at the auction of the artist’s work held in July 1794, which included twenty-seven ‘books of sketches’ and many hundreds of drawings made on his travels (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).2

As was generally his habit, Girtin inscribed the location of the view on the back of the drawing, and this too was presumably copied from the original sketch. Acqua Acetosa is a suburb north of Rome and is the site of a mineral spring that attracted many visitors. This stretch of the river Tiber was particularly associated with the great seventeenth-century landscape painter Claude Lorrain (1604/5–82), who sketched along its banks and depicted the nearby fortified Casale of La Crescenza on a number of occasions, and it is possible that Cozens had this in mind when he undertook his own exploration of the river scenery north of Rome. The view here appears to be directed to the north and therefore faces the opposite direction to another, larger Monro School view (TG0648), which looks back to the city.

The album of drawings was sold in 1833 as the work of Turner, but the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for the watercolours, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1229; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Wilton singled out this drawing as a good example of Turner’s ‘subtle washes’, but, even though these almost hide Girtin’s pencil work, he is surely correct in suggesting that this work is still a collaboration between the two artists. A landscape, as opposed to an architectural subject, requires less of an armature for the colourist to carry out his part of the process, and we might therefore reasonably expect Girtin’s contribution to be less significant in works such as this.

1794 - 1797

A View on the River Tiber, North of Rome


1794 - 1797

A View on the River Tiber, North of Rome


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)

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.