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

The Vanvitelli Aqueduct, near Caserta

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0741: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Vanvitelli Aqueduct, near Caserta, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 31.5 × 42.9 cm, 12 ⅜ × 16 ⅞ in. Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. Purchased with funds from the Morton Allport Bequest, 1965 (AG1417).

Photo courtesy of Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Purchased with funds from the Morton Allport Bequest, 1965 (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
Title
  • The Vanvitelli Aqueduct, near Caserta
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
31.5 × 42.9 cm, 12 ⅜ × 16 ⅞ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0741
Description Source(s)
Colour Photograph

Provenance

'Parker'; bought from him by Dr John Percy (1817–89), £1 1s, 15 July 1877; his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 23 April 1890, lot 1261 as 'Aqueduct, Caserta, near Naples' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, 5 gns; William George Rawlinson (1840–1928) (Armstrong, 1902); bought from him Thos. Agnew & Sons, 23 July 1917 (stock no.8657); sold to Reginald Arthur Tatton (1857–1926) together with 33 other works by Joseph Mallord William Turner for £11,000, 1 August 1917; Thomas Arthur Tatton (1893–1968); his sale, Christie's, 14 December 1928, lot 6 as 'Roman Aqueduct, Caserta' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; the Cotswold Gallery, London; bought by 'C. Thomson', £147; ... Fine Art Society, London, 1961; bought and presented to the Museum, 1965

Exhibition History

Cotswold Gallery, 1930a, no.31; Fine Art Society, 1961, no.70

Bibliography

Armstrong, 1902, p.245 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.67; Goldman, 1986, p.6 as by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the recently completed aqueduct near 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’, 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

The Aqueduct, near Caserta

Cozens’ on-the-spot sketch is inscribed ‘Aqueduct 5 miles beyond Caserta – Novr.26’ (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.326). 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 view of the aqueduct designed by Luigi Vanvitelli (1700–1773). 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 aqueduct was built in the middle of the eighteenth century to supply the area of Caserta with water, and it was consciously modelled on ancient structures, with the result that writers have sometimes mistaken its date.

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, this work has always been associated solely with Turner (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Though the issue is not entirely clear, there is nothing to suggest that it is anything other than a typical collaborative effort between Turner and Girtin.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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