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

Tivoli: The 'Villa of Maecenas' with Part of the Cascades

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0593: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Tivoli: The 'Villa of Maecenas' with Part of the Cascades, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 29.3 × 41.5 cm, 11 ½ × 16 ⅜ in. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (6568).

Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Tivoli: The 'Villa of Maecenas' with Part of the Cascades
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
29.3 × 41.5 cm, 11 ½ × 16 ⅜ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website


Walker’s Galleries, London; bought from them, 1955

Exhibition History

Walker’s Galleries, 1955, no.95


National Gallery of Canada Online as 'Attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner, Thomas Girtin’ (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This essentially monochrome drawing, one of two views of the so-called Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli seen from below (the other being TG0594), 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 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. Francis Towne (1739–1816), for instance, depicted the ruins from a slightly different viewpoint, from where the cascades formed by the precipitous descent of the river Aniene were even more prominent (Towne Online, FT263). The falls, which were such 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 it now descends in a single mass to the north east at the Villa Gregoriana.

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 sketches 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 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 Girtin probably produced his pencil drawing for Turner to add washes of colour. The source therefore differed slightly from that used for the other Monro School drawing of the ‘Villa’ (TG0594), being taken from a closer viewpoint, where the falls are more prominent.

The bulk of the copies that were sold in Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were catalogued as by Turner alone, and, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, the joint attribution of works such as this has not always been accepted (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case the National Gallery of Canada lists the work on its website as ‘Attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner, Thomas Girtin’. However, as far as can be determined from an online image, the pencil work is indeed by Girtin, and I can see no reason why the application of the monochrome washes might be described as being different from the collaborative practice as related by the two artist to Farington in 1798. In other words, the work is, I suspect, a typical Monro School collaboration, with Turner adding monochrome washes to a pencil outline copied by Girtin from a lost Cozens sketch.

1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The ‘Villa of Maecenas’ and Part of the Cascades, Seen from Below


1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The ‘Villa of Maecenas’ and Part of the Cascades, Seen from Below


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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