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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: TG0589: 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, on an early mount, 18.7 × 24 cm, 7 ⅜ × 9 ½ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 36 (D36449).

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', Seen from Below
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
18.7 × 24 cm, 7 ⅜ × 9 ½ in
Mount Dimensions
36.3 × 49.5 cm, 14 ¼ × 19 ½ in
Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; 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 'Temple of the Sibyl, Tivoli' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'Tivoli: The Temple of the Sibyl Seen from Below' 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 six Tivoli scenes 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 Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli

The Monro School drawing is based on a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that is known from a sketch dated 1777, one of seven Tivoli scenes in an album of drawings in the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London (see figure 1). Overlaying images of the two works suggests that although there are sufficient differences in details and in the disposition of the outlines of the buildings to mean that the drawing was not simply traced from the sketch, the general forms coincide to such a degree that it is clear that both were derived from a common source in a lost Cozens outline.

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 reflects the importance of a subject of interest to both classicists and lovers of picturesque scenery.

The album of drawings 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 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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