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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: TG0656: 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 paper, 18 × 24 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Holloway's Auctioneers (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Temple of Venus on the Bay of Baia, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 18.4 × 24.4 cm, 7 ¼ × 9 ⅝ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4510).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

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 paper
18 × 24 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Palser Gallery, London, 1935; R. E. Alton; Holloway’s, Banbury, 24 March 2009, lot 265 as 'The Temple of Venus in the Bay of Baiae, after John Robert Cozens' by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the famous octagonal structure at Baia, near Naples, known as the Temple of Venus, was copied from an outline drawing by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above). 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 Temple of Venus on the Bay of Baia

Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained only twenty or so sketches by Cozens, so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour, a simple tracing inscribed ‘Temple of Venus on the Bay of Baia – Dec-2’, was almost certainly purchased at the sale of ‘Mr COZENS’ in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827). As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection, now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91).2 The tracing was made from a sketch in one of the seven sketchbooks of material that are associated with Cozens’ second visit to the Continent, between 1782 and 1783, initially in the company of his wealthy patron William Beckford (1760–1844) (see figure 1). It appears that the sketchbooks were retained by the patron after his journey, and that would indeed explain why Cozens made tracings from his own drawings and how they, and not the on-the-spot sketches, came to be the source for Monro School watercolours such as this.

Baiae, the Roman resort on the bay of Baia north of Naples, was popular for its hot mineral springs, and these attracted the wealthy citizens of the city, who built their villas there. Although referred to as the Temple of Venus by eighteenth-century scholars, the octagonal structure seen here was actually part of a bath and villa complex built in the second century AD, and it acquired its name from a statue of the goddess that was discovered there. The building was a particularly popular motif with Cozens and his contemporaries, and it consequently appears in at least two other Monro School works (TG0655 and TG0657).

The bulk of the Monro School copies sold at Monro’s posthumous sale 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 works in the Turner Bequest, this example was still listed as by Turner in 2009, when it last appeared at auction (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 appears to have effaced the 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 its production, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from Cozens’ sketch; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical task of replication and produce something that approximates to a finished work.

1794 - 1797

The Temple of Venus at Baia


1794 - 1797

The Bay of Baia, with Naples and Vesuvius in the Distance


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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