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

The Ascent to the Marmore Falls (The Cascade of Terni)

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0643: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Ascent to the Marmore Falls (The Cascade of Terni), 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 18.9 × 25.3 cm, 7 ⁷⁄₁₆ × 9 ⅞ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Ascent to the Cascade of Terni, graphite on laid paper, 18.4 × 25.1 cm, 7 ¼ × 9 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4593).

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 Ascent to the Marmore Falls (The Cascade of Terni)
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
18.9 × 25.3 cm, 7 ⁷⁄₁₆ × 9 ⅞ in

‘Ascent to the Cascade of Terni’ on the back, by (?) Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; Italian View: Umbria; Waterfall Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2009


Phillips, 13 April 1987, lot 32 as 'An Italianate Gorge River Landscape' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Spink & Son Ltd, London; Sotheby’s, 9 July 2009, lot 121 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, £15,625

Exhibition History

Spink’s, London, 1988, no.1 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the path up to the famous falls of the river Velino near Terni, in central Italy, properly known as the Marmore Falls, was copied from a composition probably 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

Ascent to the Cascade of Terni

Monro’s posthumous sale of 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 outline inscribed ‘Ascent to the Cascade of Terni’, 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 outline on which this watercolour is based is part of a group of sketches that may have been made by Cozens during his stay in and around Rome from November 1776 through to March 1779. However, as Sloan has pointed out, it is also possible that they were traced from drawings made by his father, Alexander Cozens (1717–86), on an earlier trip (Sloan, 1986, pp.127–28). Certainly, none of the compositions in this group of drawings were realised as watercolours by Cozens, and this possibly encouraged Monro to commission a finished work for his collection. A similar view by John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831) (see figure 1), which must have been taken from the same spot on the river Nera, shows spray from the falls, which otherwise remain out of sight to the left in the Monro School view. Working from a simple outline, Girtin and Turner would have been unaware of this fact, otherwise they would surely have included this effect, which makes sense of the title inscribed on the source drawing.

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were attributed to Turner alone, and this generally remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case, although the foreground is quite heavily worked, enough pencil work is still clearly apparent, particularly on the distant hill, to indicate Girtin’s participation in the work’s production. Cozens’ tracing and the finished watercolour are the same size, and it may be that Girtin’s contribution was little more than to trace the outlines from the sketch. This is certainly the conclusion I take from overlaying images of the two works, which reveals a striking congruence between the forms; it was therefore up to Turner to obscure the essentially mechanical task of replication and produce something that might be thought to approximate a finished work.

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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