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

Tivoli: The 'Villa of Maecenas' and Part of the Town

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0575: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–1797), Tivoli: The 'Villa of Maecenas' and Part of the Town, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 27 × 40 cm, 10 ⅝ × 15 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Tivoli: The 'Villa of Maecenas' and Part of the Town
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
27 × 40 cm, 10 ⅝ × 15 ¾ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Christie's, 28 May 1924, lot 7 as 'View of Tivoli' by Edward Dayes; Isaac Harrap; ... Sotheby's, 8 July 1982, lot 75 as 'Tivoli' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £715; Sotheby's, 11 November 1982, lot 75; bought by M. Ostow, £3,300; Sotheby's, 14 July 1988, lot 75, unsold; Sotheby's, 15 March 1990, lot 71 as 'A View of Tivoli' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, unsold; bought by Evelyn Joll for the J. M. W. Turner Museum, Denver

About this Work

This view of the so-called Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli, seen with part of the town to the right, 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 Villa of Maecenas, Tivoli

The monumental structure overlooking the gorge of the river Aniene was known in the eighteenth century as the Villa of Maecenas, but it is now understood to be the Sanctuary of Hercules Victor, which was built in the second half of the first century BC. Maecenas was Gaius Cilnius Maecenas (70–8 BC), the munificent patron of Virgil and Horace and a benefactor of the arts who consequently represented a high point of classical civilisation to British travellers to Italy. The spectacularly sited ruins were the subject of numerous views by an earlier generation of British artists visiting Italy who appreciated their picturesque setting as well as their cultural associations. This view from the gorge of the river Aniene, with cascades of water tumbling down the hillside, was the subject of a drawing by Richard Wilson (1713/14–82), who visited the town around 1752–53 (see figure 1). Monro’s posthumous sale contained twenty-one drawings by Wilson, including one of Tivoli (Christie’s, 1 July 1833, lot 142), but the similarity between the two views is likely to have been coincidental rather than a case of the one being a copy of the other. The falls, which were an important part of Tivoli’s visual appeal, are no longer evident. The course of the Aniene was diverted to avoid the town following destructive floods in 1826, and the river now descends in a single mass to the north east at the Villa Gregoriana.

The Villa of Maecenas and Part of Tivoli

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 (see figure 2). Seven sketches by Cozens of some of the most popular sites in Tivoli are included 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 a different view of the Villa of Maecenas (see TG0592 figure 2), and it was from just such an outline that this work was presumably copied.

Monro’s posthumous sale contained a substantial number of views of Tivoli, all of which were attributed to Turner alone. 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 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case, enough of the pencil work is apparent, even in the poor-quality image that is the only record we have, to suggest Girtin’s involvement in its production, with Turner adding a narrow range of tones to his collaborator’s outlines.

1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The ‘Villa of Maecenas’, Seen from an Elevated Viewpoint


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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