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

Tivoli: The River Aniene, with 'The Temple of the Sibyl' Seen Above

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0591: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Tivoli: The River Aniene, with 'The Temple of the Sibyl' Seen Above, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 38.3 × 28.2 cm, 15 ⅛ × 11 ⅛ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.47-1968).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Tivoli: The River Aniene, with 'The Temple of the Sibyl' Seen Above
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
38.3 × 28.2 cm, 15 ⅛ × 11 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2017

Exhibition History

London, 1976, no.74 as ’Tivoli; the cascade ... Ascribed to Turner’


Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.385 as 'Tivoli: The Cascade' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; V&A Collections Online as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the river Aniene in the gorge below the so-called Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli 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 scenes in the Roman Campagna, it has not been possible to trace the precise source for this work, but it is likely to have been made from a composition 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. Seven sketches by Cozens of some of the most popular sites in Tivoli are contained in an album in the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, including another close-up view of the Temple of the Sibyl (see  TG0589 figure 1), and it is from just such an outline that Girtin probably produced his pencil drawing for Turner to add washes of colour. Only a few of these survive, but the auction of Cozens’ 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 produced works such as this (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82).

The Grand Cascade, Tivoli

This view up to the dramatically sited temple was particularly popular with British artists visiting Italy during the second half of the eighteenth century, many of whom were inspired by the example of the seventeenth-century artist Gaspard Dughet (1615–75), whose image of the falls was engraved in 1744. Artists including Francis Towne (1739–1816) (see figure 1), Thomas Jones (1742–1803) and John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831) all depicted this view, though they tended to take up a station further upriver from where the cascades could be seen, as is the case with another Monro School work, Tivoli: The ‘Temple of the Sibyl’ and the Cascades Seen from Below (TG0578). The circular temple, originally with eighteen fluted columns, shares a lofty location overlooking the Aniene in the centre of Tivoli with another temple, shown to the right here, which properly speaking was dedicated to the Sibyl, whilst the more famous round structure was probably dedicated to Vesta. The falls, which were an important part of Tivoli’s visual appeal and were so often juxtaposed with views of the temple, are actually no longer evident today. The course of the Aniene was diverted to avoid the town following destructive floods in 1826, and the river now descends in a single mass to the north east at the Villa Gregoriana.

Monro’s posthumous sale contained a substantial number of views of Tivoli, all of which were attributed to Turner. More recently, following the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has become the norm, though this work is still given to Turner alone (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). However, enough of the pencil work is apparent, particularly on the rocks and in the buildings in the distance, to suggest Girtin’s involvement in its production, with Turner adding a narrow range of blues and greys to his collaborator’s outlines.

1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The ‘Temple of the Sibyl’ and the Cascades Seen from Below


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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