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

The Convent of San Silvestro, near Monte Compatri

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0703: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Convent of San Silvestro, near Monte Compatri, graphite and watercolour, 13.1 × 19.2 cm, 5 ⅛ × 7 ½ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (E.3801-1934).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Convent of San Silvestro, near Monte Compatri
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
13.1 × 19.2 cm, 5 ⅛ × 7 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in March 2022


Edith Mary Burke Powell (Lady Powell, née Wood) (1848–1934); bequeathed to the Museum, 1934


V&A Collections Online as 'Convent of San Silvestro, near Monte Compatri, Italy' by 'an anonymous artist, possibly J.M.W. Turner' (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the hilltop convent of San Silvestro, near Monte Compatri, south east of Rome, 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’, 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 Italian views completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the source of this view of the hilltop Carmelite monastery at Monte Compatri. In general, Girtin and Turner worked from compositions by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and, more specifically, from sketches and tracings that he made during or after his two Italian visits, in 1776–79 and 1782–83. The auction of the artist’s 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 the bulk of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).2 In this case, the Cozens sketch either has not survived or has not been recognised as his work, and nor is it entirely clear on which visit it was made. However, the proximity of Monte Compatri to Frascati and the volcanic lakes of Nemi and Albano, both of which Cozens visited during his first continental tour, suggests that it was from one of the sketches that he made in 1776 that the Monro School drawing was executed. Thus, it would join an extensive group of subjects that map out the picturesque scenery of the Roman Campagna.

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, and, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984 that established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, this work has only ever been associated with Turner (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Indeed, despite the character of the washes, comparable in their range and careful execution to similar small-scale views such as An Unidentified Villa, between Florence and Bologna (TG0753), the drawing has been described on V&A Collections Online as by ‘an anonymous artist, possibly J.M.W. Turner’ (O738726) and it did not feature in the most recent printed catalogue of the watercolour collection (Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980). The two watercolours are surely by the same artist and I believe that the relatively heavily worked colouring is typical of a group of smaller Italian scenes that can be attributed to Turner, including two more at the museum that have the same provenance (TG0579 and TG0681). Though, typically of the Monro School watercolours, much of the pencil work has been effaced, enough of Girtin’s characteristic inventive touches are still apparent – spread across the vegetation in the middle ground – to suggest that he was also involved in the work’s production.

1794 - 1797

An Unidentified Villa, between Florence and Bologna


1794 - 1797

A Hilltop Village, Said to Be Tivoli


1794 - 1797

Verona, from the River Adige


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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