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

The Arno, Seen from the Pisa to Florence Road

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0673: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Arno, Seen from the Pisa to Florence Road, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 18.2 × 24.5 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ⅝ in. Tate (T09241).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), after (?) Alexander Cozens (1717–86), Between Ambrogiana and La Lastra, on the Road from Pisa to Florence, graphite on laid paper, 18.1 × 24.8 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4608).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Arno, Seen from the Pisa to Florence Road
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
18.2 × 24.5 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ⅝ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Tuscany

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in March 2022


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 27 June 1833, lot 77 as 'Isola Borromeo, near Ambrogiana, &c. 3' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Moon', £5 10s; ... E. Parsons, London, £14 14s; Walter S. Sichel (d.1933); his posthumous sale, Sotheby’s, 25 October 1933, lot 51 as 'attributed to J. M. W. Turner’; bought by Paul Oppé (1878–1957), £2 2s; then by descent; bought by Tate as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, 1996


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.38; Oppé, 1957–59, p.239, no.2032; Tate Online as 'Villa dell’Ambrogiara e La Lastra, Road from Pisa to Florence, after J.R. Cozens' by Joseph Mallord William Turner (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the river Arno, seen from the Pisa to Florence road near the Villa Medicea L’Ambrogiana, was copied from a drawing that may be by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above). It was produced at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), where Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) 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’. The majority of the resulting watercolours saw the two artists engaged in a unique collaboration; as they later recalled, Girtin ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’ 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

Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained only twenty or so sketches by Cozens, so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour, a simple tracing inscribed ‘ambrosiana & LaLastre Road from Pisa to Florence’, was almost certainly purchased at the sale of ‘Mr COZENS’ in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827).2  As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection, now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). The natural assumption is that the source drawing was executed on the return leg of Cozens’ first trip to Italy in the spring of 1779, but, as Sloan has pointed out, the inscription – ‘Road from Pisa to Florence’ – would suggest a journey in the opposite direction. It is likely, therefore, that the original sketch was actually made by Alexander Cozens (1717–86), though, as with other views in the vicinity (see source images TG0692 and TG0792), what we now have is a tracing of it made by his son John (Sloan, 1986, pp.127–28).

The view seems to have been taken from close to the Villa Medicea L’Ambrogiana, looking upstream, with Capraia to the left. The title that has hitherto been used for this work, ‘Villa dell’Ambrogiara e La Lastra’, therefore stems from a misreading of the inscription by the work’s first known owner, Paul Oppé (1878–1957). Overlaying the images of the two works suggests such a strong congruence of forms that in all likelihood the Monro School view was traced from the outline, the only significant difference being the number of figures dragging the boat to the left. Presumably it stretched credibility to think that two men might do the task and so the Monro School artists added two more.

The bulk of the Monro School copies sold at the patron’s posthumous sale were attributed to Turner alone, and, in spite of the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the works in the Turner Bequest (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23), this example, which was acquired by Tate Britain in 1996, is still listed by the gallery as by Turner alone (T09241). This is not entirely surprising given that the view has been relatively heavily worked, with a fuller palette of colours than was commonly the case. Moreover, what pencil work that is apparent in the trees in the foreground and on the cliffs above the river (a misreading of a line of trees in the source drawing) is quite crude and heavy handed, lacking the subtle range of touches that is characteristic of Girtin’s draughtsmanship. However, there are sufficient more varied touches on the buildings on the opposite side of the river to leave the question of Girtin’s contribution open to question and that too is my first impression about the attribution of the colour washes to Turner. Thus, attractive areas of colouring are undermined by others which are clumsy and where the perspective goes badly awry. Particularly concerning is the way that the towpath beyond what appears to be a fence bounds a body of water that tips up and does not recede in a convincing manner. On balance, I am just minded to conclude that the failings in both the pencil drawing and the colouring may be down to the poor quality of the material from which the watercolour was worked, but in this instance the names of both Girtin and Turner come with significant question marks.

Image Overlay

1794 - 1797

A Bridge near Castel del Bosco, on the Road between Pisa and Florence


1794 - 1797

A Convent Overlooking the Arno, near Castel del Bosco


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).
  2. 2 A full record of the sale is available in the Documents section of the Archive (1794 – Item 1)

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