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

The Vatican: The Belvedere Viewed from the East beyond a High Wall

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0568: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Vatican: The Belvedere Viewed from the East beyond a High Wall, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 22 × 19 cm, 8 ⅝ × 7 ½ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVI, 11 (D36570).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Vatican: The Belvedere Viewed from the East beyond a High Wall
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
22 × 19 cm, 8 ⅝ × 7 ½ in

‘Vatican’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin; ‘CONVENT (COLOR)’ on the back, by another hand

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Modern Rome

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 27 June 1833, lot 96, as 'The Lago Maggiore, Vatican, &c. sketches in blue and Indian ink 10'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £6 6s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

Second Loan Collection, 1869-1931, no.68 as ’Convent (Colour)’


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1237 as 'Part of the "Vatican"' by Thomas Girtin; Warrell, 1991, p.44; Turner Online as 'Rome: A Road beside a High Wall, with the Buildings of the Vatican Rising Beyond' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the Belvedere Casino from a road outside the Vatican 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.

As with the majority of the Roman views completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the source for this image. In general, Girtin and Turner worked from compositions by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and, more specifically, from sketches and tracings that he made during or after his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779. Few of these survive, but 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 (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). In this case, the survival of a sketch by Cozens of another view of the Belvedere and its use by Girtin and Turner at Monro’s house (TG0569) increase the likelihood that Cozens again provided the source for this collaboration.

This work was bought by Turner at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, where the vast majority of the Monro School copies were listed as being by Turner alone. However, the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for watercolours such as this, though more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1237; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case, although Turner applied a richer palette with several washes carefully added layer upon layer, Girtin’s fine pencil work shows through, particularly in the buildings, where the colour is worked more sparingly. The quality of the colouring is not so uniformly strong, however, something that is not helped by the work’s badly faded condition, the result of an extended exhibition at high light levels. In particular, the depiction of vegetation to the right is unconvincing. In comparison with Turner’s use elsewhere of simpler monochrome washes to create a sketch-like effect, the more laboured build-up of superimposed tones appears muddied and confusing, especially when compared with the simple patterns on the wall opposite.

1794 - 1797

The Vatican: The Wall of the Giardino della Pigna and the Belvedere


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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