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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, Lake Como in the Distance

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 (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.48), part of a group of eleven signed drawings all on the same scale and uniformly mounted with their titles added below. The Cozens drawing is inscribed ‘Near Chiavenna in the Grisons’, a region now known as Graubünden that he visited in September 1776 on the way to the Italian peninsular, adding that it is 'The Lago di Como in the distance'. Six of the compositions provided the basis for Monro School copies (see also TG0485, TG0494, TG0495, TG0503, TG0600), but as each are larger to varying degrees than the 26.8 × 18.7 cm (10 ½ × 7 ⅜ in) of the Cozens drawings it is clear that they were not used by Girtin as his source material. Moreover, one of the group titled by Cozens ‘The Approach to Martigny, Rhone Valley, Valais' (Leeds Art Gallery (13.88/53)) is based on a larger on-the-spot drawing dated 1776 now in the Sir John Soane's Museum (44/12/15). The Cozens outline measures 22.9 × 36.2 cm (9 × 14 ¼ in) and given that the Monro School copies invariably follow the dimensions of their source material it is not unreasonable to conclude that the rest of this group of drawings was developed from untraced sketches made by the older artist on his first visit to the Continent. Only one of Cozens’ sketches from 1776 has survived, but others from a year later are consistently large in scale and are generally little more than summary outlines (see TG0589 figure 1), 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.

1794 - 1797

Lake Klöntal, the View Looking West


1794 - 1797

Castelmur Castle, in the Village of Bondo


1794 - 1797

A Ravine in the Viamala, between Chur and Chiavenna


1794 - 1797

Lake Como


1794 - 1797

An Unidentified Valley with Travellers, Possibly in Switzerland


1794 - 1797

Tivoli: ‘The Temple of the Sibyl’, Seen from Below


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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