For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works (?) Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after John Robert Cozens

The Lake and Town of Nemi

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0631: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Lake and Town of Nemi, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 42.5 × 54.6 cm, 16 ¾ × 21 ½ in. Hereford Museum and Gallery (4522).

Photo courtesy of Herefordshire Museum Service, Hereford Museum & Gallery (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Lake and Town of Nemi, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, squared for transfer, 33.7 × 50.8 cm, 13 ¼ × 20 in. Sir John Soane's Museum, London (44/12/3).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Lake and Town of Nemi
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
42.5 × 54.6 cm, 16 ¾ × 21 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna; Lake Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2015


Miss Burney; her sale, Sotheby’s, 4 March 1943, lot 31 as 'View of Tivoli from Monte Mario, Rome' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £27; bought by the Friends of Hereford Art Gallery and Museum and presented, 1943

About this Work

This view of the town of Nemi, situated on the north-east rim of the crater above the lake, 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

The Lake and Town of Nemi

The watercolour is based on a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that he realised in 1779 as a watercolour (see figure 1), which, in turn, is based on a sketch that he made on a trip from Rome in September 1777 (see the source image, above). Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained only twenty or so sketches by Cozens, and no substantial watercolours, so the patron must have borrowed the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ used as the source for the several hundred Italian and Swiss views by artists working at his home. In this case, the source seems to be amongst a folio of drawings acquired at an unknown date by the architect Sir John Soane (1753–1837). The sketch has been squared up for transfer but, as can be seen by overlaying images of the outline and the Monro School watercolour, the congruence of forms is so close that it is possible that the pencil underdrawing was simply traced from the Cozens source. Despite the substantial size of the Monro School work, there is no question that the watercolour was the source, therefore. The view looking north east to the town of Nemi, perched high above the volcanic lake, provided Cozens with one of his most dramatic compositions, with Monte Cavo looming above in the distance. The round tower of the Palazzo Ruspoli forms a distinctive motif juxtaposed with a sequence of round arches that traverse the adjacent ravine.

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were attributed to Turner alone, and this remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Since then, the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm, though not hitherto in this case. The attribution of the washes to Turner is the less problematic issue here. Thus, although the poor condition of the work has clouded the issue somewhat, the very summary monochrome washes are clearly by Turner, albeit that the work is unfinished, lacking the range of blue tones that are so characteristic of the Monro School copies of Cozens. Quite a bit of the pencil work still remains visible as a consequence, and, given that this is by Girtin’s high standards stiff and mechanical, it is tempting to question his involvement in the work. On balance, however, I think there are just enough interesting touches, particularly in the distant architecture, to attribute the substandard quality of the drawing to the mechanical nature of Girtin’s task – the replication of another artist’s outline, possibly employing a method of tracing – and perhaps the work does not depart from the artists’ general practice when working at Monro’s house (as they described to Farington in 1798) after all.

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).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.