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

Rome: St Peter's Square from the Colonnade

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0567: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Rome: St Peter's Square from the Colonnade, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: (?) Liberty Cap), 40 × 43.3 cm, 15 ¾ × 17 in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 7 (D36528).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Rome: St Peter's Square from the Colonnade
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: (?) Liberty Cap)
40 × 43.3 cm, 15 ¾ × 17 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Modern Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in December 2017


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

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.529 as ’View from the Colonnade, St. Peter’s, Rome’; Toronto, 1980, no.12 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Ruskin, Works, vol.13, p.256 as 'Part of the Circular Portico of St. Peter's, Rome'; Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1234 as 'View from the Colonnade, St. Peter's, Rome' by Thomas Girtin; Wilton, 1984a, p.16; Turner Online as 'Rome: The Colonnade of St Peter's' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view from the south side of the colonnade designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), looking north to the Vatican, 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 image. In general, Girtin and Turner worked from compositions by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and, more specifically, from sketches and tracings that he made during or after his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779. Few of these 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 material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). In this case, however, as Andrew Wilton has pointed out, the figures wear ‘historic costume’, and, as he argued in the online catalogue of the Turner Bequest, the piece was worked up from ‘one of the painters of architectural capricci in eighteenth-century Rome, such as Giovanni Paolo Pannini’ (Wilton, 1980b, p.113; D36528). Although no such source has been found, this is quite plausible, especially given the fact that at least two other Monro School subjects (TG0547 and TG0548) seem to have been copied from Pannini (1691–1765) or alternatively Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820). However, perhaps a Cozens source is not out of the question after all. A sale of Cozens’ work in 1789 included as lot 41 a ‘view of the vatican, from the colonnade of St Peters’ (Greenwood’s, 19 March 1789), and it is possible that the sketch for this lost composition was the source used at Monro’s house.

Rome: The Colonnade Seen through the Porta Angelica

This work 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 alone was responsible for the watercolours, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1234; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23), though in the case of this work he initially argued that it was by ‘Turner himself’ (Wilton, 1980b, p.113), before amending his view to state in the online catalogue of the Turner Bequest that the ‘pencil work is … by Girtin, with washes added by Turner’ (D36528). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave much of the pencil work showing through. An architectural subject generally requires a more detailed underdrawing than a landscape, and in this case Girtin’s inventive and fluent hand is clearly apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple monochrome palette, not least in the foreground, where the figures are left untouched.

A similar view of the colonnade, seen through the Porta Angelica, is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (see figure 1). I have not had the opportunity to see this work, but, based on a good image, I would anticipate it to be by Turner alone. In particular, the figures under the arch, in contrast to their counterparts in the view in the Turner Bequest, betray no sign of Girtin’s involvement. The gateway was erected by Pope Pius IV (1499–1565), who was born Giovanni Angelo de’ Medici and gave his name to the Porta Angelica, which was built in the 1560s to provide access to the great ceremonial space in front of St Peter’s.

1794 - 1797

A Detail of the Portico of an Ancient Temple


1794 - 1797

An Imaginary Composition with Antique Ruins and Figures


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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