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

The Bay of Porto Paone, a Flooded Crater in the Islet of Nisida

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0729: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Bay of Porto Paone, a Flooded Crater in the Islet of Nisida, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 17.6 × 23.4 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ⅛ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Bay of Porto Paone, a Flooded Crater in the Islet of Nisida
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
17.6 × 23.4 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2016


P & D Colnaghi & Co.; Sotheby's, 6 July 2016, lot 344 as 'Porto Paone, a Bay in the Isle of Nisida' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £40,000

About this Work

This view of ruined buildings in the bay of Porto Paone, on the islet of Nisida, off the Neapolitan coast, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1). 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

Porto Paone

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch, dated 18 October 1782, contains a long inscription detailing the view: ‘Porta Pavone, a Bay in the Isle of Nisida, which was evidently the Crater of a Vulcano – the building in the center a decay’d Villa – The Tower was built in the 15th. century’. The sketch is found at the beginning of the fourth of the seven sketchbooks associated with Cozens’ second Italian trip, which saw the artist travel to Naples in the company of his patron William Beckford (1760–1844). The Monro School watercolour was in all probability not copied directly from this sketch, however. An album put together by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827), now in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, contains ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’, and this was lent to Monro for his copyists to work from (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). The album contains more than seventy tracings from on-the-spot drawings in the first three of the sketchbooks, and these provided the basis for more than thirty Monro School works. There are only five tracings from the next three books, but there is no reason to think that many others did not exist, and it was presumably from these lost copies by Cozens himself that as many as thirty-five more watercolours were produced by Girtin and Turner, including this view of Porto Paone. The notion that the Monro School artists worked from simple outline tracings, rather than on-the-spot sketches, is supported by two considerations. Firstly, it is highly unlikely that Beckford would have lent out the sketchbooks and, given that Cozens took the trouble to make copies of so many of the drawings, it is clear that the patron, and not the artist, retained the books. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, Monro School copies such as this example never follow the shading or the distribution of light seen in the on-the-spot sketches, though they always replicate the basic outlines found in the tracings.

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, this work was still listed as solely by Turner when it entered the art market in 2016 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not entirely surprising given that the watercolour has been quite heavily worked by Turner with a full palette of colours, which has effaced much of Girtin’s characteristic pencil work. Arguably, just enough of the artist’s inventive touches are still apparent, particularly in the buildings in the middle ground, to point to Girtin’s involvement in its production, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from a Cozens drawing; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical practice of replication and produce something that approximates to 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).

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