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

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

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0569: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Vatican: The Wall of the Giardino della Pigna and the Belvedere, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 26.8 × 41.3 cm, 10 ½ × 16 ¼ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 37 (D36558).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Part of the Vatican, Rome, 1777, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 24.8 × 44.7 cm, 9 ¾ × 17 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Vatican: The Wall of the Giardino della Pigna and the Belvedere
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
26.8 × 41.3 cm, 10 ½ × 16 ¼ in

‘Vatican’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin

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, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

Fourth Loan Collection, 1896-1930, no.6 as ’The Vatican’


Turner Online as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This watercolour showing the Belvedere Casino from outside the Vatican walls, as with a similar view of the same part of the Vatican set further back (TG0568), 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

This view of the stretch of the Vatican walls enclosing the Belvedere and the Giardano della Pigna (Garden of the Pine) is unique amongst the Monro School views of Rome because it alone can be shown to be based on a surviving sketch by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above). Thus, whilst it is clear that the majority of the Roman views are based on compositions by Cozens, his original sketches have all disappeared with this sole exception. 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, but none of the Roman views have been recorded since they were presumably borrowed by Monro from the purchasers at the sale. The sketches may have been destroyed, but hopefully they remain simply unrecognised, as in this case, where the drawing was sold at auction in 2007 as by Cozens’ contemporary Thomas Jones (1742–1803) (Sotheby’s, Paris, 29 March 2007, lot 42). The pencil drawing, with monochrome washes, is inscribed ‘Part of the Vatican Jany 23 1777’ and it has the same dimensions as the Monro School watercolour. The idea that the newly discovered Cozens sketch is the source for this watercolour can be confirmed by overlaying images of the two works; indeed, such is the congruence of forms between the two that it is quite likely that Girtin actually traced Cozens’ sketch, assuming that he did not work from the artist’s own tracing, of course.

The watercolour 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. The cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin was solely responsible for watercolours such as this example (though he omitted it from his 1909 catalogue), whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave much of the pencil work showing through. An architectural subject generally requires a more detailed underdrawing than a landscape, and in this case Girtin’s inventive and fluent hand is clearly apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple palette of blues and greys.

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support employed by Girtin as a cream wove large post writing paper manufactured by James Whatman the Younger (1741–98) at the Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent (Bower, Report). This was presumably provided by Monro himself and was therefore the paper on which the majority of the works produced at his house were executed.

1794 - 1797

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


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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