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

Posillipo: The Palazzo di Roccella on the Shore

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0732a: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Posillipo: The Palazzo di Roccella on the Shore, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 18.2 × 23.5 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Casino Built by Cardinal Spinelli at Posillipo, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 18.1 × 24.1 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ½ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4602).

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)
  • Posillipo: The Palazzo di Roccella on the Shore
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
18.2 × 23.5 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 133 as 'The minister's villa at Portici, Cardinal Spinelli's palace, &c.' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Hixon', £4 8s; ... George T. Veitch; his sale, Sotheby's, 7 December 1927, lot 117 as 'Landscape with the casino built by Cardinal Spinelli at Posilipo' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; ... Woolley and Wallis, 16 March 2016, lot 85, £2,700 as 'Casino built by Cardinal Spinelle-Pauslippe'; Sotheby's, 4 July 2018, lot 182 as 'A Casino at Posillipo, Italy' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £20,000

About this Work

This view of the Palazzo di Roccella, on the shore at Posillipo near Naples, 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, erroneously, ‘Cassino built by Cardinal Spinelli, when archbishop of Naples – Pausillippo Octr 24.’, was almost certainly purchased at Cozens’ studio sale in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827). 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 almost certainly 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.294), when he travelled with his patron William Beckford (1760–1844) and stayed in the Naples area for four months. The sketch is contained in the fourth of seven sketchbooks that survive from the trip (The Whitworth, Manchester (D.1975.7.7)), and it was presumably traced by Cozens because the books were retained by Beckford. Cozens was mistaken about the identity of the building on the shore at Posillipo, however, as it actually shows the palace of Prince Carlo Carafa di Roccella, known today as the Villa Chierchia. The building, which appears in another Monro School view (TG0732) made after a different Cozens sketch, has also been confused with the Palazzo Donn’Anna, which is just visible in the distance here.

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone. Despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, the watercolour was still listed as solely by Turner when it appeared on the art market in 2018 (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 and the distant part of the landscape, to point to Girtin’s involvement in the work’s 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.

1794 - 1797

Posillipo: The Palazzo di Roccella, with the Palazzo Donn’Anna Beyond


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).

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