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

Rome: The Temple of Vesta

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0546: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Rome: The Temple of Vesta, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23.9 × 32.8 cm, 9 ⅜ × 12 ⅞ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 10 (D36531).

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: The Temple of Vesta
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23.9 × 32.8 cm, 9 ⅜ × 12 ⅞ in

‘Temple of Vesta / Grey’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


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.793


Ruskin, Works, vol.13, p.641 as 'Temple of Vesta, Rome'; Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1234 as '"Temple of Vesta"' by Thomas Girtin; Wilton, 1984a, p.16; Turner Online as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a small round temple, which in the eighteenth century was thought to be dedicated to Vesta, 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 Temple of Vesta and the Temple of Fortuna Virilis

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 of the Temple of Vesta, known at the time as the Temple of Hercules Victor. However, even though only a small proportion of the sketches that John Robert Cozens (1752–97) made during his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779 survive, it is highly likely that one of the numerous ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ that he executed during his time in Rome provided the model here. Monro’s posthumous sale contained only a few sketches by Cozens, but, as Kim Sloan has argued, the patron must have borrowed outlines or tracings from purchasers at the auction of the artist’s work held in July 1794, which included twenty-seven ‘books of sketches’ and many hundreds of drawings made on his travels (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). Surprisingly, given the monument’s popularity as a subject with artists and visitors to Rome, Cozens does not seem to have produced a watercolour of the scene, and perhaps this encouraged Monro to commission a finished work for his collection. Francis Towne (1739–1816) is just one of a number of artists who adopted a similar viewpoint to show the monument, with the Temple of Portunus, formerly called the Temple of Fortuna Virilis, shown beyond (see figure 1).

Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, included numerous Roman scenes attributed to Turner, many of which were acquired by the artist himself, as here. The cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for watercolours such as this example, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1234; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). 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; indeed, the more distant Temple of Portunus is left untouched. 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. The area of the drawing left untouched also allows the viewer to appreciate the role of the choice of paper in the overall effect. The paper historian Peter Bower has identified it as a white wove writing paper, probably manufactured by James Whatman the Younger (1741–98) at the Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent, and this is likely to have been the support used in the majority of the works produced at Monro’s house (Bower, Report).

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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