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

The Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella, Rome

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0542: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella, Rome, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24 × 34 cm, 9 ½ × 13 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images, Bonhams (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella, Rome
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24 × 34 cm, 9 ½ × 13 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Ancient Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


George Guy Greville, 4th Earl of Warwick (1818–93) (his collector's mark, Lugt no.2600); ... Sotheby's, 21 May 1958, lot 28 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by the Fine Art Society, London, £60; A. J. D. Eton; his sale, Sotheby’s, 11 July 1985, lot 141 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, unsold; Phillips, 4 November 1985, lot 95 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, unsold

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1932, no.93 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Agnew’s, 1934, no.86 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Fine Art Society, 1960, no.77 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella, on the Via Appia on the outskirts of Rome, 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’, 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 need to work by candlelight may account for the generally monochrome appearance of the Monro School works, though, as here, the smaller examples tend to be more colourful and highly finished.

The Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella, Rome

As with the majority of the Roman views completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the precise source of this image of the famous first-century mausoleum. However, even though only a small proportion of the sketches that John Robert Cozens (1752–97) made during his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779 survive, it is very likely that one of the numerous ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ that he executed during his time in Rome provided the model here. Cozens produced three watercolours of the subject, including an upright version that is very close to this composition (see figure 1), though it lacks the landscape to the left, including the lake and the distant prospect of St Peter’s. The former feature is particularly curious, as reference to any of the numerous other views of the mausoleum produced during the eighteenth century indicates. A contemporary oil by Carlo Labruzzi (1748–1817) of exactly this view, for instance, does not include a steep-sided lake and it appears that this was invented by the artists working for Monro. It is perhaps more likely, however, that Girtin simply misinterpreted the original pencil outline that he was copying, and that Turner followed up the hint to create a more picturesque setting for the ruined monument. Pictorial gains come at a cost though, as the melancholic and sombre tone of Cozens’ image of the ruins finds no place here.

There is a tendency to ascribe the more colourful and highly finished Monro School landscapes solely to Turner, not least because any underlying pencil work is often effaced. This work has always been attributed solely to Turner, but, when it came up for sale in 1985, Andrew Wilton suggested in the catalogue that ‘the pencil work may be that of Thomas Girtin’ (Exhibitions: Sotheby’s, 11 July 1985, lot 141). This seems entirely plausible even though I have only had a colour image to work from, and in general I have found no compelling reason to believe that more fully worked sheets such as this depart from the artists’ customary collaborative practice. Indeed, the fact that the sky and the atmospheric effects are carefully developed does not mean that the composition did not start out as a simple replica of a comparatively slight source.

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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