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

Rome: The Ludovisi Gardens

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0563: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Rome: The Ludovisi Gardens, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 38 × 27 cm, 15 × 10 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Rome: The Ludovisi Gardens
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
38 × 27 cm, 15 × 10 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Modern Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


William George Rawlinson (1840–1928) (Armstrong, 1902) as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Claude Tryon (d.1949); his sale, Christie's, 15 December 1939, lot 53 as 'Villa Ludovisi, near Rome' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by G. Douglas Thomson of the Palser Gallery, London, £18 18s; bought by Tom Girtin (1913–94), 1940; his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 14 July 1994, lot 95 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £12,650

Exhibition History

Sheffield, 1953, no.100; London, 1962a, no.26 as ’Monro School. Attributed to T. Girtin and J. M. W. Turner, R. A.’; Reading, 1969, no.30 as ’Monro School. Attributed to T. Girtin and J. M. W. Turner, R. A.’


Armstrong, 1902, p.274 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of a corner of the Ludovisi Gardens in Rome, showing part of the third-century Aurelian Walls, 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 subjects completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the source for this view of the less formal part of the Ludovisi Gardens, though it is likely to have been a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97). Cozens is known to have produced two watercolour views of the gardens, but this work is almost certainly based instead on one of the numerous sketches that he made during 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 outlines or tracings from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).

The gardens of the Villa Ludovisi were created for Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595–1632), nephew of Pope Gregory XV (1554–1623), and were amongst the most celebrated in Rome at the time of Cozens’ visit. Sadly, the villa was demolished in the late nineteenth century and the gardens were lost. This view, which incorporates a part of the Aurelian Walls that marked the gardens’ northern boundary, ignores the highly formal elements that characterised the more public areas of Rome’s most celebrated gardens. Cozens’ views of the city’s gardens typically avoid the grand formal avenues and plantings, and show instead the wilder corners in which statuary and ancient ruins contribute to an image of continuity with the ancient past and where there are no figures that might spoil the timelessness of the image.

The drawing has appeared at auction a number of times in the past century and on each occasion it has been attributed to Turner alone. However, whilst the watercolour was in the collection of Tom Girtin (1913–94), it was exhibited as a collaboration between Girtin and Turner, and a note in the Girtin Archive (40A) records his opinion: ‘Pencilling and underpainting by Girtin / Colouring by Turner’. I am not sure that I would go that far, but this does seem to me to be a good example of where sale room pressure – Turner being the more commercially successful name – has distorted the attribution of a Monro School work. It is true that Turner’s colouring is more carefully worked than was often the case with a wider range of tones and a beautifully realised sky, but there is still enough pencil work visible to suggest Girtin’s involvement. And certainly there is no reason to suspect that the artists’ account of their joint 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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