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

The Marmore Falls, near Terni

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0992: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Marmore Falls, near Terni, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 22.8 × 17.6 cm, 9 × 6 ⅞ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F05206-0127 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Marmore Falls, near Terni
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
22.8 × 17.6 cm, 9 × 6 ⅞ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna; Waterfall Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)


Lord McLaren, Edinburgh; Thos. Agnew & Sons

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1980, no.11 as ’An Alpine Cascade’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the Marmore Falls, near Terni in central Italy, also known as the falls of the river Velino, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1). It was produced at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), where Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) 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’. The majority of the resulting watercolours saw the two artists engaged in a unique collaboration; as they later recalled, Girtin ‘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

Falls of the Velino, near Terni

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed ‘Velino – near Terni Septr.15.1783’, meaning that it was made on the return from the artist’s second trip to the Continent, in the autumn of 1783 on the road between Rome and Florence (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.382). The sketch is found in the sixth of the seven sketchbooks that are associated with a visit that began with a journey to Naples in the company of the artist’s patron William Beckford (1760–1844). It is unlikely that the Monro School watercolour was copied directly from the sketch by Cozens, however. It would have been uncharacteristic of Beckford to have lent the sketchbooks to Monro, and the existence of a large number of tracings of their contents by Cozens himself suggests that the patron, rather than the artist, retained the books. An album put together by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827), now in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, includes more than seventy tracings from on-the-spot drawings in the first three of the sketchbooks, and these provided the basis for at least thirty Monro School works. There are only five tracings from the next three books, but there is no reason to think that others did not exist, and it was presumably from these lost copies by Cozens that as many as thirty-five more watercolours were produced by Girtin and Turner, including this view of the spectacular descent of the river Velino into the river Nera. The fact that the Monro School copies never follow either the shading or the distribution of light seen in the on-the-spot sketches, though they always replicate the basic outlines, further suggests that Girtin and Turner worked from tracings of the sketchbook views. The falls, east of Terni, were a popular destination with travellers and artists alike, providing a view both spectacular and picturesque, and a site of archaeological interest. The Romans created the Cascata delle Marmore, or Marmore Falls, in 271 BC by diverting the river Velino in order to protect the city of Rieti, forming in the process what are still the tallest non-natural falls in the world (at a height of 165 metres). The river adjacent to the falls features in another Monro School watercolour based on a Cozens composition (TG0643), though this was presumably sketched on the artist’s first Italian journey.

The bulk of the Monro School copies sold at the patron’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, and, 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, as here, have remained under Turner’s name (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The work is known only from a black and white photograph dating from 1976, and at this distance all that can be said with any confidence is that there is nothing to suggest that it is anything other than a typical collaborative effort between Turner and Girtin.

A copy of this drawing is to be found in 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.16)). 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, whilst others, as in this case, were painted from material retained by the Monro family.

1794 - 1797

The Ascent to the Marmore Falls (The Cascade of Terni)


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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