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

The Bay of Naples

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG1359: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Bay of Naples, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 25.4 × 41.2 cm, 10 × 16 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC 4.0)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Bay of Naples
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
25.4 × 41.2 cm, 10 × 16 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Norman Dakeyne Newall (1888–1952); his widow, Leslia Newall (d.1979); Christie's, 13 December 1979, lot 78 as 'Naples' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £1,400

About this Work

This view across the Bay of Naples, looking north west, 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 many of the Monro School drawings of Italian scenes, it has not been possible to trace the source of this view of Naples, taken from near the lost church of Santa Maria Maddalena. But, as was generally the case, it is likely to have been a sketch made by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) on one of his visits to Naples, either in 1777 or in 1782–83. None of the many views of Naples that are included in the seven sketchbooks of material that are associated with Cozens’ second visit to the Continent resemble this scene, so it is likely that Girtin worked from a lost sketch from the earlier trip. The auction of Cozens’ 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 himself did not make a finished watercolour of what was one of the standard views of Naples, with the bay curving round to the Castel dell’Ovo to the left and the monumental charterhouse of San Martino standing proud on the hill in the centre. And this was perhaps the point of the exercise for the Monro School artists; theirs was presumably a commission to produce a different sort of commodity than the slight sketches that predominated at the 1794 studio sale.

The work is known to me only from a poor-quality black and white photograph and it is not possible to comment with any authority on its attribution at auction in 1979 to Turner alone. All that can be said with any confidence is that there is no particular reason to suspect that it departs from the division of labour that the two artists themselves described to Farington in 1798, though what seem to be quite heavily worked colour washes may have all but effaced Girtin’s characteristic pencil work. That said, Tom Girtin (1913–94) noted on the back of a photograph of the work his opinion that the work was 'not by Turner or Girtin' (Girtin Archive, 12/X).

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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