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

Tivoli: 'The Temple of the Sibyl', Seen from Below

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0588: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Tivoli: 'The Temple of the Sibyl', Seen from Below, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 30.2 × 38.4 cm, 11 ⅞ × 15 ⅛ in. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Harold Broadfield Warren (1937.171).

Photo courtesy of Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Gift of Harold Broadfield Warren / Photo: President and Fellows of Harvard College (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 from Below
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
30.2 × 38.4 cm, 11 ⅞ × 15 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number


Harold Broadfield Warren (1859–1934); presented to the Museum, 1937


Harvard Art Museums’ Collections Online as 'after Joseph Mallord William Turner' (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the circular Temple of Vesta, which in the eighteenth century was known as the Temple of the Sibyl, 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 large drawings 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 view of the so-called Temple of the Sibyl (see TG0589 figure 1), and something like it was probably the source here. 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 TG0590. These amount to as thorough a survey of a motif as any undertaken at the patron’s house, and this reflected the importance of a subject of interest to both classicists and lovers of picturesque scenery.

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 associated with Turner alone (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). However, enough of the pencil work is apparent, even in an online image, 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’


1794 - 1797

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


1794 - 1797

Tivoli: ‘The Temple of the Sibyl’


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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