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

The Royal Palace at Caserta, Seen from the Road to the Vanvitelli Aqueduct

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0742: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Royal Palace at Caserta, Seen from the Road to the Vanvitelli Aqueduct, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 15 × 23.2 cm, 5 ⅞ × 9 ⅛ in. Private Collection (c/o Lowell Libson Ltd).

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images, Agnew's, London (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Royal Palace at Caserta, Seen from the Road to the Vanvitelli Aqueduct
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
15 × 23.2 cm, 5 ⅞ × 9 ⅛ in

'Mr Hawkins' on the back

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2015


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); Archdeacon Charles Parr Burney (1785–1864) (lent to London, 1887); then by descent to the Misses M. and J. Burney; and then by descent; Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1991; private collection; Lowell Libson Ltd., 2014–15; private collection, USA

Exhibition History

London, 1887, not in catalogue; Agnew’s, 1991, no.7 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Oxford, 2002, no.37 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Lowell Libson, 2015, pp.56–57 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.68

About this Work

This distant view of the side elevation of the royal palace at Caserta, to the north of Naples, 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

The View from the Road between Caserta and the Aqueduct

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed ‘From the Road between Caserta & the Aqueduct – Novr.26’, and it also identifies the locations of ‘Caserta’, ‘Capua Vecchia’ and ‘Capue Nuova’ (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.327). The sketch is found in the fifth of the seven sketchbooks from Cozens’ second Italian trip, which saw him travel to Naples in 1782 in the company of his 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 distant view of the royal palace and its park. 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. In this case, the tracing presumably did not include the full inscription found on the back of the on-the-spot drawing, which notes ‘27 windows [erased] in the side of the Palace in sight. Pillasters between of stone – the colour of the Palace reddish’; certainly there is no hint that the building, even in the fully coloured watercolour, is anything other than grey.

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, and, in spite of the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, this example was still listed as by Turner when it appeared on the art market in 2015 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not entirely surprising given that the watercolour has been quite heavily worked by Turner with a full palette of colours, which has effaced much of Girtin’s characteristic pencil work. Arguably, just enough of Girtin’s hand is still apparent in the lighter middle ground to point to his involvement in its production, 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 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.18)). 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.

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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