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

The Bridge of Augustus, near Narni

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0644: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Bridge of Augustus, near Narni, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 15 × 22.1 cm, 5 ⅞ × 8 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Guy Peppiatt Fine Art Ltd. (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Bridge of Augustus near Narni, graphite on laid paper, 14.3 × 22.9 cm, 5 ⅝ × 9 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4523).

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 Bridge of Augustus, near Narni
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
15 × 22.1 cm, 5 ⅞ × 8 ⅝ in
Object Type
Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Umbria

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2010


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 119 as 'The Bridge of Augustus, Leghorn, &c. (3)' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Shirley', £7 10s; ... Captain J. Pilkington, 1873; ... M. R. C. Lomax; his sale, Sotheby’s, 18 March 1982, lot 150 as 'The Two Bridges of the Narni' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £1,045; private collection, United Kingdom until 2009; Guy Peppiatt Fine Art, 2009-10

Exhibition History

Guy Peppiatt, London, 2010, no.3 as ’The Bridge of Narni’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.39

About this Work

This view of two of the ruined arches of the Roman bridge over the river Nera in Umbria, central Italy, was copied from a composition 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 outline inscribed ‘Part of The Bridge of Augustus near Narni’, 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 drawing on which this watercolour is based is inscribed ‘KK 39’, and, although it is not known what this stands for, the forty sketches marked in this way all seem to have been made by Cozens during his stay in and around Rome from November 1776 through to March 1779. 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.

The Roman bridge that carried the Via Flaminia over the river Nera near Narni was built on a monumental scale; the four arches, each thirty metres high, spanned 160 metres in length and, although only two remained, they made for a spectacular subject for Cozens and his contemporaries. In the distance can be seen the new bridge that replaced the structure in the Middle Ages, and this was the subject of a watercolour by John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831), which, in turn, was copied by Francis Towne (1739–1816) (Towne Online, FT799).

Like the bulk of the Monro School copies sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, this work was attributed to Turner alone (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 119), and, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the works in the Turner Bequest, it was still listed as by Turner in 2010 when it last appeared on the art market (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23. This is not entirely surprising given that the work has been heavily worked by Turner with a full palette of colours, which has effaced any traces of Girtin’s pencil work. The question then is, if nothing of Girtin’s work remains visible, does it follow that this view departs from the general practice of the artists at Monro’s house (as they described to Farington in 1798)? Although the point can clearly never be proved, I suspect that Girtin was involved in the production of this work, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from Cozens’ sketch; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical task of replication and produce something that approximates to a finished work.

Two copies of this drawing are to be found in a collection of watercolours painted from Monro School collaborations known as ‘The LeGeyt Volume’ after a later owner May Le Geyt (d.1942) who was a descendent of Dr Thomas Monro (Lacy Scott & Knight, 11 March 2017, lot 1464 (p.14)). One of the copies is dated 23 June 1836 whilst the larger version from 1818 is signed by John Monro (1801-80) the fourth son of the doctor and he may have been the author of all of the sheets in the book. The date range in the case of this composition and elsewhere with drawings from both 1827 and 1837 suggests that some of the copies were made prior to the 1833 sale, whilst others were painted from material retained by the Monro family.

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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