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

Rome: A View in the Farnese Gardens

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0562: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Rome: A View in the Farnese Gardens, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 39.2 × 28.3 cm, 15 ⅜ × 11 ⅛ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1221).

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)
  • Rome: A View in the Farnese Gardens
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
39.2 × 28.3 cm, 15 ⅜ × 11 ⅛ in

'Mount Palentine / Farnesini Gardens‘ on the back, by Thomas Girtin; Mt ... Palentine Farnesini Gardens / Villa Negroni’ on the back, in a later hand

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) at Christie’s, c.1927; given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.112 as ’In the Farnese Gardens’ by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.204 as 'In the Farnesina Gardens, Rome' by Thomas Girtin; YCBA Online as 'In the Farnese Gardens, Rome ... Attributed to Thomas Girtin' (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a corner of a Roman garden 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

As with the majority of the Roman views completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the source for this unusually intimate view of a Roman garden, though it is likely to have been from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97). Only a small proportion of the sketches that Cozens made during his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779 survive. But 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 outlines or tracings from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). The idea that the Monro School works were based on Cozens’ watercolours, still occasionally repeated in sales catalogues, is clearly no longer tenable, not even when, as here, the copy is comparatively large. Not only is there no Cozens watercolour of this subject but also sufficient large-scale outlines survive, notably in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (see TG0578 figure 1), to suggest that even the biggest Monro School drawings were not copied from his finished studio drawings.

Despite the inscription on the back of the drawing, which appears to be in Girtin’s handwriting and was probably therefore copied from the source drawing, there is still some uncertainty about the identity of the garden depicted here, and this is reflected in the changes to the work’s title that have occurred in the past. The ‘Farnesini Gardens’ are on the banks of the Tiber and not on ‘Mount Palatine’, as recorded here, and so did Girtin make a mistake in transcribing the inscription? It is the Farnese Gardens that are located on Mount Palatine, but this image does not accord with any of the numerous views of the gardens produced by Cozens’ contemporaries. However, it is possible that the church tower depicted in the distance is that of San Francesco Romana, which would have been visible from the Farnese Gardens on the Palatine. The arched openings in the campanile shown here do not quite match up with those of the church, but they are close enough to suggest that Cozens, if he was the original artist, did in fact find a quiet and unconsidered corner of the Farnese Gardens from which to develop a singularly idiosyncratic composition.

The attribution of this work has seen similar divisions of opinion as the title. Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak diplomatically skirted the issue of what they called the ‘Monro School Copies’, but they did include this example in a brief addenda as ‘Group I’, copies ‘wholly the work of Girtin’ (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.204). Susan Morris, following the example of Andrew Wilton, has upheld the idea that the work is a collaboration between Girtin and Turner, and this, it seems to me, is the most sensible line to take (Morris, 1986, p.49). The pencil work is evidently by Girtin, and, whilst the washes of colour are not amongst Turner’s most fluent, there is no clear evidence that Girtin added the colour too. There may not be anything to positively identify Girtin as the author of the washes, but there is no reason either to suspect that the artists’ account of their practice at Monro’s house (as they described to Farington in 1798) does not hold good for this work too.

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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