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

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

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0732: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Posillipo: The Palazzo di Roccella, with the Palazzo Donn'Anna Beyond, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 19.2 × 38.1 cm, 7 ½ × 15 in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 13 (D36534).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Posillipo: The Palazzo di Roccella, with the Palazzo Donn’Anna Beyond
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
19.2 × 38.1 cm, 7 ½ × 15 in

‘il castello di donna Ann / Pausilipo, Naples’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


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

Exhibition History

Oxford Loan Collection, 1878–c.1909, no.10, renumbered, no.165


Ruskin, Works, vol.13, p.567 as 'Coast of Naples'; Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1235 as '"Il Castello di donna Ann, Pausilipo, Naples"' by Thomas Girtin; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.63; Turner Online as 'Posilippo: The Castello di Donna Anna' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 09/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the Palazzo di Roccella, on the shore at Posillipo, 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

Posillipo: The Casino Built by Cardinal Spinelli

As with many of the Monro School drawings of Italian scenes, it has not been possible to trace the precise source for this view of the Palazzo di Roccella, now known as the Villa Chierchia, on the Neapolitan coast. But, as was generally the case, it is very likely to have been a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97), and there is a drawing in one of the seven sketchbooks of material that are associated with his second visit to the Continent (between 1782 and 1783) that is close enough to establish the author of the source beyond any reasonable doubt (see figure 1). However, Andrew Wilton in the online catalogue of the Turner Bequest is surely wrong to suggest that this Monro School view was ‘copied with considerable modifications’ from the sketch (D36534). The substantial building seen in the distance behind the Palazzo di Roccella, which is actually the partially ruined Palazzo Donn’Anna, is barely visible in the later Cozens sketch, and, given that the Monro School artists would not have had the knowledge or means to insert it into their ‘copy’, it is much safer to assume that they worked from another untraced outline. Cozens most likely made this on his less well-documented earlier trip to the city, in 1777, when he tended to sketch on a more generous scale. This would be in keeping with the larger dimensions of this work compared to the other view of the Palazzo di Roccella (TG0732a), which is, indeed, based on the 1782 sketchbook view, or rather a tracing of it (see source image TG0732a). The consistent misidentification of the main building as the ‘Castello di Donna Anna’ in both of the Monro School views was presumably occasioned by the inscription on the back of this drawing. This appears to be in Girtin’s handwriting, presumably copied from the lost Cozens sketch, and reads ‘il castello di donna Ann Pausilipo, Naples’. The fact that the sketchbook view is not the source for the Monro School watercolour under consideration here is finally clinched by the disparity between this inscription and the quite different wording on the sketchbook image (see figure 1), which reads, ‘Casino Built by Cardinal Spinelli when archbishop of Naples – at Pausillippo’.

This watercolour was bought by Turner at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, where the vast majority of the Monro School copies were listed as being by Turner alone. The cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin was responsible for watercolours such as this, though more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1235; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Although Girtin’s pencil work is less apparent than is commonly the case, there is nothing to suggest that he was not involved in the work’s production, just that Turner’s application of a simple palette of blues and greys is rather more extensive than usual. This is particularly the case in the main building, where Girtin’s normally delicate and inventive pencil work is noticeably absent.

1794 - 1797

Posillipo: The Palazzo di Roccella on the Shore


1794 - 1797

Posillipo: The Palazzo di Roccella on the Shore


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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