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

Tivoli: The 'Temple of the Sibyl' Seen across the Gorge of the Aniene

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0577: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Tivoli: The 'Temple of the Sibyl' Seen across the Gorge of the Aniene, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 47.3 × 68.2 cm, 18 ⅝ × 26 ⅞ in. Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne (H12841).

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (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' Seen across the Gorge of the Aniene
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
47.3 × 68.2 cm, 18 ⅝ × 26 ⅞ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Online image


Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums Collections Online as 'attributed to' Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of Tivoli from a distance, with the circular structure of the so-called Temple of the Sibyl prominent on the hill, 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


The source for the Monro School drawing is a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that is known from a watercolour dated 1778 (see figure 1), though it has been suggested that it actually began as pencil sketch made on the spot in 1777 (Wilton, 1980a, pp.40–41), at the same time as the seven large drawings of subjects in Tivoli that are now in an album in the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (for example, see TG0589 figure 1). Even though many of the forms match up when images of the two works are overlaid, the Monro School drawing is bigger and therefore could not have been traced from the Cozens watercolour, whilst the quite different distribution of light suggests that it was made from an outline drawing that was therefore the common source for both works. 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 like this (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). The same view of Tivoli looking west in the direction of Rome was painted by many of Cozens’ contemporaries, including Thomas Jones (1742–1803) and Francis Towne (1739–1816), who depicted the scene from a little further away (see Towne Online, FT267). At the centre of all these view, amongst the line of buildings on the hill, is the ‘Temple of the Sibyl’, the circular structure that during the eighteenth century was the name given to what we now know as the Temple of Vesta.

The mass of the Monro School copies that were sold in Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, including at least eight lots that included views of Tivoli, were catalogued as being by Turner and this, the largest of the Monro School drawings, has always been attributed to him alone. However, although the issue is somewhat clouded by the work’s poor condition, the result of its being exhibited for long periods at high exposure to light, enough of the pencil work of a credible standard is visible through Turner’s washes of blue and grey not to rule out Girtin’s involvement. Certainly the pencil work provides no clear-cut evidence that Turner himself was solely responsible for the watercolour, and consequently I think there is no reason to doubt the validity of the statement that the two artists themselves made to Farington in 1798 about the division of labour at Monro’s house.

Image Overlay

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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