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

The Lake of Mezzola, near Chiavenna, Lake Como in the Distance

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0492: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Lake of Mezzola, near Chiavenna, Lake Como in the Distance, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.2 × 37.7 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅞ in. National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (NMW A 1747).

Photo courtesy of National Museum Wales (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Lake of Mezzola, near Chiavenna, Lake Como in the Distance
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24.2 × 37.7 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅞ in

'Lago di Como near Chiavenna' on the back, by Thomas Girtin; 'Lago de Como' on the back; 'J M Turner RA' on the back; '7' on the back

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; Italian View: The North; Lake Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in June 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 80 as 'A scrap-book, containing 66 sketches in Switzerland, in blue and Indian ink' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Hixon', £21 11s 6d; ... Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 14 May 1881, lot 168 as 'Near Chiavenna, Lago di Como' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £16 16s (stock no.6096), for Frederick Wedmore (1844–1921), plus 10% commission, 21 May 1881; acquired by him for for James Pyke Thompson (1846–97); Turner House Collection, Penarth; transferred to the Museum, 1921

Exhibition History

Newcastle, 1924, no.16


Wedmore, 1900, no.9; Armstrong, 1902, p.246 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.35; Museum Website as 'Lago di Como, near Chiavenna' by Joseph Mallord William Turner (Accessed 19/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the small lake south of Chiavenna in northern Italy 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

Near Chiavenna, in the Grisons

The view of the Lake of Mezzola, looking south to Lake Como, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that he executed as a small monochrome study for an unknown patron (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.48) and that is inscribed ‘Near Chiavenna in the Grisons’. It is very unlikely that Monro had access to Cozens’ finished watercolours, and the work was presumably copied either from an on-the-spot drawing made in September 1776 or from one of the tracings the artist was in the habit of producing from his own compositions. Cozens’ sketches from 1776 have not survived, but they were probably large in scale and little more than summary outlines, which would have needed careful interpretation to create the ‘finished drawings’ that Monro required for his collection. In all, there are as many as sixty Monro School views of the Alpine scenery of France, Switzerland and northern Italy that can, with varying degrees of certainty, be associated with Cozens’ first trip to the Continent in 1776.

Near Chiavenna in the Grisons

Establishing the division of labour within a Monro School drawing is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave much of the pencil work showing through. Although the nature of the subject did not require much detail, Girtin’s hand is clearly apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple palette of blues and greys. Sadly, the paper has been discoloured due to intense exposure to light at some point during its public display, though the protection afforded by an earlier mount, left and right, gives some impression of how it originally appeared. There is a second version of the Monro School composition of roughly the same dimensions (see figure 2). The quality of the washes is poor in comparison, and, although the underlying pencil work is better, the drawing is unlikely to be anything other than a copy by an unknown artist of the Girtin–Turner collaboration.

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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