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

Tivoli: The Rocca Pia, from the North West

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0580: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Tivoli: The Rocca Pia, from the North West, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 20.6 × 26.7 cm, 8 ⅛ × 10 ½ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 40 (D36453).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Tivoli: The Rocca Pia, from the North West
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
20.6 × 26.7 cm, 8 ⅛ × 10 ½ in
Mount Dimensions
36.3 × 49.5 cm, 14 ¼ × 19 ½ in

‘Tivoli’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin (pasted down, but transcribed by a later hand on the lower right of the mount)

Part of
Object Type
Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 78 as ‘A book containing 62 interesting sketches in the neighbourhood of Rome and Naples, by Turner, in Indian ink and blue’; bought by Thomas Griffith on behalf of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £21; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1229 as '"Tivoli"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'Tivoli: Part of the Fortifications' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the Rocca Pia, the medieval castle of Tivoli, is mounted in an album of watercolours bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 78). The sixty-four drawings were the outcome of a unique collaboration between Girtin and Turner working together at Monro’s London home at the Adelphi. Here the artists 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

The Rocca Pia, Tivoli

The forbidding fortress of the Rocca Pia, which also appears in another Monro School view in the same album (TG0581), was built in 1461 by Pope Pius II (1405–64) to control the rebellious population of Tivoli and to act as a symbol of the permanence of papal temporal power. 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 large 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 views of the so-called Temple of the Sibyl (see TG0589 figure 1) and the monumental building known as the Villa of Maecenas (see TG0575 figure 2), and there are others in another volume in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, that originally came from the same source (see TG0614 figure 1), all of which indicates that the artist undertook a substantial survey of the town and its pictorial attractions. Medieval sites such as this appeared less frequently in the sketches of visitors to Tivoli, though a notable exception to this was the work of the amateur Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827), who drew the Rocca Pia in May 1783 (see figure 1). Beaumont met up with Cozens in Rome earlier in the year and it is possible that he suggested the subject of the sketch, which is taken from a similar viewpoint to the Monro School drawing. It is even conceivable that it was the source, especially as it is clear that the patron lent his drawings by Cozens for Girtin and Turner to copy for Monro. However, no other drawings made at Monro’s house have a Beaumont prototype and the more likely scenario is that the two young artists worked from a lost Cozens drawing that was sold at the auction of his work held in July 1794 and that contained as many as twenty-seven ‘books of sketches’ and many hundreds of drawings made on his travels. 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 album of drawings from which this drawing comes was sold in 1833 as the work of Turner, but the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for the watercolours, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1229; 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 monochrome palette.

1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The Rocca Pia, from the South West


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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