For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works (?) Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Robert Cozens

Tivoli: 'The Temple of the Sibyl'

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0590: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Tivoli: 'The Temple of the Sibyl', 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23 × 29.6 cm, 9 × 11 ⅝ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 14 (D36535).

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 Temple of the Sibyl'
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23 × 29.6 cm, 9 × 11 ⅝ in

‘Cybeles Temble / Tivoli’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

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

Oxford Loan Collection, 1878-c.1909, no.9, renumbered no.171 as ’His first Tivoli’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Ruskin, Works, vol.13, p.567; Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1235 as 'The Sibyl's Temple, Tivoli' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'Tivoli: The Temple of the Sibyl' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the so-called Temple of the Sibyl is one of nine Tivoli scenes bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). The 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

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 view of the famous temple at Tivoli. In the online catalogue of the Turner Bequest, Andrew Wilton suggests that rather than the work being after a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97), as was so commonly the case, an untraced view by either Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1691–1765) or Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820) might be the source (D36535). However, no work by either artist has been traced that matches this composition exactly, and I do not see any reason why this particular view of the temple should be any different from the rest of the Monro School Tivoli subjects. Three different tracings exist of views by Cozens of the ‘Temple of the Sibyl’ (for example, see TG0588), and I suspect that this watercolour was ultimately based on a similar sketch or tracing made during or after his stay in Italy from November 1776 through to March 1779.

The distinctive circular building, with its eighteen fluted Corinthian columns, shares a lofty location with another temple that properly speaking was dedicated to the Sibyl, whilst the more famous round structure was probably dedicated to Vesta. The temple, dating from the first century BC, was famous in the eighteenth century both for its dramatic situation, which prior to the diversion of the river overlooked the falls of the Aniene in the centre of Tivoli, and for the quality of its architectural design. Not surprisingly, it was the subject of numerous depictions by artists including Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–78) (see TG0587 figure 1) and British visitors such as Francis Towne (1739–1816) and Thomas Jones (1742–1803). In all, there are four Monro School drawings showing close-up views of the monument from various angles, the others being TG0586, TG0587 and TG0588. These amount to as thorough a survey of a motif as any undertaken at the patron’s house, and this reflects the importance of a subject of interest to both classicists and lovers of picturesque scenery. Girtin himself was to repeat the view of the temple from the south a few years later when he copied a cork model of the ruins (TG0879), a sad reminder that working from secondary sources was the closest the artist got to seeing the great classical set pieces that captured the attention of the older generation of British landscape artists.

The bulk of the Monro School drawings bought by Turner in the 1833 sale of Monro’s collection were attributed to the artist himself, 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.1235; 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. It is slightly surprising, therefore, that Wilton in the online catalogue of the Turner Bequest suggests that the ‘pencil work here is less typical of Girtin than usual’, concluding that it may be ‘Turner’s work alone’ (D36535). It is an opinion that I record here but do not share.

1794 - 1797

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


1794 - 1797

Tivoli: ‘The Temple of the Sibyl’


1794 - 1797

Tivoli: ‘The Temple of the Sibyl’, the Broken Side


1794 - 1797

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


1799 - 1800

The Temple of Vesta, Tivoli, Drawn from a Cork Model


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).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.