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

The Temple of Venus at Baia

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0656a: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Temple of Venus at Baia, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 28.7 × 37.8 cm, 11 ¼ × 14 ⅞ in. Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin (1987.43).

Photo courtesy of Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Temple of Venus at Baia
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
28.7 × 37.8 cm, 11 ¼ × 14 ⅞ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website


Robert Strauss; Sotheby's, 30 November, 1978, lot 197 as 'Ruins of a Temple near Baia' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, unsold; bought by the Museum, 1987


Gallery Website as Ruins of a Temple near Baia by Joseph Mallord William Turner (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the famous octagonal structure at Baia, near Naples, known as the Temple of Venus, 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 with many of the Monro School drawings of Italian scenes, it has not been possible to trace the source of this image of the so-called Temple of Venus, actually a part of a bath and villa complex that acquired its name from a statue of the goddess that was discovered there. But, as was generally the case, it is likely to have been a sketch made by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) on one of his visits to Naples, either in 1777 or in 1782–83. In comparison with another Monro School watercolour showing the structure from a slightly different angle, which was based on an outline drawing from 1782–83 (TG0656), this drawing is much larger, suggesting that the source was drawn on the earlier, less well-documented tour, when Cozens generally worked on a more generous scale when sketching from nature. The auction of the artist’s work held in July 1794 contained twenty-seven ‘books of sketches’ and many hundreds of drawings made on his travels, and, as Kim Sloan has argued, given that Monro’s posthumous sale included only a few sketches by Cozens, the patron must have borrowed the bulk of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked, though in this case it has either been lost or remains unrecognised (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).2 The Bay of Baia, north of Naples, was a popular destination for British tourists and the artists who served them, and Cozens himself sketched the Temple of Venus on three occasions. Surprisingly, given the monument’s popularity, Cozens did not produce a watercolour of the subject, and this possibly encouraged Monro to commission at least two watercolours for his collection (for a possible third, see TG0655).

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were attributed to Turner alone, and this generally remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case, however, the attribution to Turner working on his own has not been challenged, but, as far as one can tell from an online image, Girtin’s involvement is certainly worth considering. Just enough of his characteristic pencil work is visible to suggest that the work is the result of the same division of labour that the two artists themselves described to Farington in 1798.

1794 - 1797

The Temple of Venus at Baia


1794 - 1797

The Temple of Venus at Baia


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).
  2. 2 A full record of the sale is available in the Documents section of the Archive (1794 – Item 1)

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