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

Rome: The River Tiber from Monte Mario, Looking towards the Sabine Hills

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0571: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797), Rome: The River Tiber from Monte Mario, Looking towards the Sabine Hills, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 22.4 × 40 cm, 8 ⅞ × 15 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Rome: The River Tiber from Monte Mario, Looking towards the Sabine Hills
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
22.4 × 40 cm, 8 ⅞ × 15 ¾ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Modern Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2016


Ellen Hodgson Burney (1819–1911); then by descent to Blanche Susan Fanny Burney (1858–1944); Thos. Agnew & Sons; ... Phillips, 19 May 1998, lot 4 as 'From Monte Mario, Sabine Mountains and the River Tiber, Tivoli, in the Distance' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Sotheby's, 6 July 2016, lot 306 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £56,250

About this Work

This panoramic view from the eastern slopes of Monte Mario as the river Tiber meanders into the distance 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 of either this view looking east towards the Sabine Hills and a distant Tivoli or a similar panoramic scene, The Roman Campagna, from the Villa Madama (TG0572). 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 much of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). Cozens certainly explored Monte Mario overlooking Rome and he based a number of his finished watercolours on sketches made from the well-known viewpoints at the Villa Madama and the Villa Mellini. This view is from lower down the slopes, from where the Milvian Bridge (the Ponte Molle) is just visible spanning the Tiber, as it is in the related view, which must have been taken from slightly higher up and to the left. As it is one of the larger Monro School subjects, one might expect it to have been copied from a finished watercolour. However, none by Cozens exist, and sufficient large-scale outline drawings survive, notably in the collections of the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (for example TG0578 figure 1), and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (such as TG0584 figure 1), to suggest that even the biggest Monro School watercolours, such as this one, were copied from such a simple source.

The watercolour has always been attributed to Turner alone, as indeed were most of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833. Its reappearance on the art market in 2016 provided the opportunity to assess the possible involvement of Girtin in its production, and, whilst the issue is not clear-cut, enough of the pencil work shows through to suggest that this work too is a collaborative effort. A broad landscape view, in comparison with an architectural subject, does not require detailed pencil work and there is nothing to suggest that Turner was responsible for that aspect of the work’s production too, or that it was not the outcome of the practice that the two artists described to Farington in 1798.

1794 - 1797

The Roman Campagna, from the Villa Madama


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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