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

The Lighthouse at Livorno (Leghorn)

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0674: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Lighthouse at Livorno (Leghorn), 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 17.8 × 24.8 cm, 7 × 9 ¾ in. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (59.55.1281).

Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Lighthouse at Livorno (Leghorn)
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
17.8 × 24.8 cm, 7 × 9 ¾ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Northern Coastal Scenes Italian View: Northern Coastal Scenes

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


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; ... P & D Colnaghi & Co., 1949; Gilbert Davis (1899–1983); bought from him by the Gallery, 1959


The Huntington Online as 'View of Leghorn' by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the lighthouse at Livorno, known in the eighteenth century by British travellers as Leghorn, 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

As is the case with many of the Monro School Italian views, it has not been possible to trace the source for this work, and nor are there are any surviving sketches or watercolours by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) of the Fanale dei Pisani, the famous lighthouse on the Mediterranean coast. Indeed, there is considerable doubt about whether Cozens visited the port on either of his trips to Italy since, as Kim Sloan has argued persuasively, a group of outlines of views along the Ligurian coast between Livorno and possibly as far north as Monaco were actually produced by Alexander Cozens (1717–86), who appears to have made a coastal voyage on his way either to or from Italy in 1746 (Sloan, 1986, pp.127–28). The outline drawings formed the basis of a number of Monro School subjects, including views near Genoa (TG0675 and TG0679), and it is possible that an untraced sketch by Alexander was the source for this watercolour too. The simple outlines, which are mounted in an album once owned by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827), may still be by John, however, but they would have been his copies or tracings from his father’s on-the-spot sketches (Sloan, 1986, pp.127–28).

The bulk of the Monro School copies sold at the patron’s posthumous sale in 1833, like this work, were attributed to Turner alone. Although many have since been accepted as the result of the joint efforts of Girtin and Turner, especially since the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, others, like the work discussed here, have remained under Turner’s name (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not surprising given that the watercolour has been quite 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 watercolour departs from the general practice of the artists at Monro’s house (as they described to Farington in 1798)? Although the point can never be proved, I suspect that Girtin was involved in the production of such works, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from a Cozens drawing; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical practice of replication and produce something that approximates to a finished work.

A copy of this drawing is pasted into 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.2)).  One of the drawings is inscribed ‘J. Monro’, presumably 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. Some of the drawings are dated 1827 and 1837 suggesting that the copies were made both prior to the 1833 sale, as in this case, whilst others were painted from material retained by the Monro family.

1794 - 1797

On the Coast South of Genoa, near Lerici


1794 - 1797

An Unidentified Village on the Ligurian Coast, East of Genoa


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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