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

Rome: The View from the Palatine Hill, with the Palace of Augustus in the Foreground

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0536: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Rome: The View from the Palatine Hill, with the Palace of Augustus in the Foreground, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23.4 × 55.4 cm, 9 ¼ × 21 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 33 (D36554).

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 View from the Palatine Hill, with the Palace of Augustus in the Foreground
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23.4 × 55.4 cm, 9 ¼ × 21 ¾ in

‘Ruins of augustus Palace on the / Palatine Hill'; 'mountains near Tivoli'; 'm m scinthio'; 'walls of Rome'; 'Baths of Titus'; 'Coliseo / light thro'; 'a convent’ on the back, all by Thomas Girtin (the inscriptions coinciding with the subjects shown on the front)

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

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


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1236 as '"Ruins of Augustus Palace on the Palatine Hill"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This panoramic view from the Palatine Hill looking over the Campagna to Tivoli 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 watercolour was acquired by Turner at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, along with numerous other Italian subjects. Few are on this impressive scale, though, and none employ such a wide angle – an angle that anticipates Girtin’s adoption of the panoramic mode for many of his landscape views. As with the majority of the Monro School views of Rome, it has not been possible to trace the original source of this work. 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 may have 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). The drawing that Girtin copied presumably included written details of the view from the Palatine Hill, and the artist inscribed these on the back of the drawing in the place corresponding to the image on the front.

Drawings such as this were invariably sold in 1833 as by Turner, but the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for this work, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1236; 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. Girtin’s inventive and fluent hand is particularly apparent in the ruins in the middle ground and in the three figures, which, unusually for works in this series, add interest to the topographical view. In general, I am more than happy to follow Wilton’s dual attribution of such works, but in this case the blocky application of dark areas over a lighter layer in the foreground to create semi-abstract patterns is more typical of Girtin’s style around 1797, and it is possible that Turner was not involved in the work’s production. Making pencil outlines of landscape subjects presumably took less time than colouring them, so that if Girtin’s attendance at Monro’s house matched Turner’s, he would presumably have had opportunities to contribute to the process of enhancing his own outlines.

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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