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

Rome: St Peter's from Monte Mario

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0570: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Rome: St Peter's from Monte Mario, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 40.6 × 54 cm, 16 × 21 ¼ in. Harewood House (HHTP:2001.2.17).

Photo courtesy of The Earl and Countess of Harewood and Harewood House Trust (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: Jacob More (c.1740–93), Rome from the Villa Mellini, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper, 45.7 × 58.5 cm, 18 × 23 in. British Museum, London (1890,0512.123).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Rome: St Peter's from Monte Mario
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
40.6 × 54 cm, 16 × 21 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Modern Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Girtin Archive Photograph


John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick (1769–1859); then by descent to John, Lord Northwick; his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 6 July 1921, lot 175 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.43), £50 and 5% commission, for 'Viscount Lascelles'; Henry George Charles Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood (1882–1947); then by descent


Borenius, 1936, no.473 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of St Peter’s from Monte Mario, Rome’s highest hill, 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

The sources for the majority of the Roman views completed at Monro’s home have proved frustratingly elusive, and, though it is a reasonable assumption that the views were based on drawings by John Robert Cozens (1752–97), only a handful of the sketches that he made on either of his stays in the city have been identified, and only one has been confidently linked to a Monro School subject, Part of the Vatican (see source image TG0569). However, the discovery during the final stages of the preparation of this online catalogue of a very close (if not identical) sketch of the view from the Villa Mellini on Monte Mario looking south to St Peter’s (see the source image above), held by the British Museum, might conceivably have added another example. Overlaying images of the two drawings reveals a striking congruence in the forms (though with sufficient minor differences in the form of the vegetation to suggest that the Monro School drawing was copied freehand rather than traced), and crucially they are also on the same generous scale. The sketch at the British Museum is currently attributed to the Scottish landscape artist Jacob More (1740–93), who was resident in Rome by 1773 and who died there in 1793. The attribution may be sound, but two factors suggest that Cozens may have been the author of this work too: firstly, the fact that there is nothing to link More and his work with Monro, and secondly, the unusual scale of the sketch and its copy, similar to the groups of sketches in the collections of the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (see TG0578 figure 1), and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (see TG0614 figure 1). Cozens certainly explored the environs of Monte Mario and he based a number of finished watercolours on sketches made from the well-known viewpoint at the Villa Mellini, though his view of St Peter’s does not feature the Villa Filippani, seen here to the right (British Museum, London (1878,1228.9)). Admittedly, the washes of watercolour do not resemble those seen in coloured sketches by Cozens such as The Gorge with the Cascades, Tivoli (see TG0578 figure 1), but then neither do they obviously relate to More’s work in the field either. Indeed, to my eye the monochrome washes on the source drawing actually have more in common with those found on the Monro School drawings themselves, though with the qualification that the work in the source drawing at the British Museum resembles examples such as Genzano: The Palazzo Sforza Cesarini (TG0626), which I suspect were coloured by Girtin rather than Turner.

To summarise, I wonder whether what we are looking at here in Rome: St Peter’s, from Monte Mario is a unique case of a Monro School drawing with pencil work by Girtin and watercolour washes by Turner that is based on a simple outline drawing by Cozens that was later enhanced at Monro’s house by Girtin himself. The visual evidence for the initial collaboration is reasonably clear and follows the typical pattern where Girtin’s outlines are fleshed out by Turner, though in this case the process has not been completed. In contrast, the remainder of my proposal is speculative in a way that I generally try to avoid, but in this instance I am minded to go out on a limb somewhat as a way of addressing a specific problem in the study of Cozens’ work: the failure to locate and identify the bulk of the sketch material from his first continental trip. Might it therefore be that the British Museum sketch of the view from Monte Mario is an example of a broader pattern whereby Cozens’ sketches were not lost or destroyed, but effaced by additional colouring, in this case by a later hand, but in others by the artist himself?

1794 - 1797

The Vatican: The Wall of the Giardino della Pigna and the Belvedere


1794 - 1797

Genzano: The Cesarini-Sforza Palace


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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