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

Tivoli, with the Falls of the River Aniene: The Grand Cascade

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0574: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Tivoli, with the Falls of the River Aniene: The Grand Cascade, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 49 × 32.5 cm, 19 ¼ × 12 ¾ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (3054-1876).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Tivoli, with the Falls of the River Aniene: The Grand Cascade
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
49 × 32.5 cm, 19 ¼ × 12 ¾ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The Roman Campagna; Waterfall Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in May 2018


William Smith (1808–76); bequeathed to the Museum, 1876


Armstrong, 1902, p.280 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.384 as 'The Falls of the Anio at Tivoli, near Rome' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Shanes, 2016a, pp.100-1 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; V&A Collections Online as 'Falls of the Anio, Tivoli' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'probably after J. R. Cozens' (Accessed 07/09/2022) 

About this Work

This watercolour, showing the falls of the river Aniene at Tivoli, 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’, 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 need to work by candlelight may account for the generally monochrome appearance of the Monro School works, though, as here, the smaller examples tend to be more colourful and highly finished.

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 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), the monumental building known as the Villa of Maecenas (see TG0592 figure 2) and the famous cascades of the river Aniene (see TG0578 figure 1), and a similar drawing is the likely source for this work too. The model for the Monro School watercolour probably differed from this image in at least one respect, however. The view of the grand cascades descending from the town of Tivoli with the famous round Temple of the Sibyl was extremely popular with artists throughout the eighteenth century, and indeed earlier, but none of these views includes such an enclosed foreground and a tree that conveniently frames the town in the manner seen here. As with the similar tree and foreground that flank the image of the ‘Villa of Maecenas’ (TG0592) and the wild wooded landscape that was added to a view of the Villa d’Este (TG0596), this appears to be an invention added to a plain record of the town and the falls to create a more dramatic and enclosed setting. A visitor to Tivoli today would discover not only that the Monro School view is partly a fiction but also that the falls, which were such an important part of the town’s visual appeal, are no longer visible from Cozens’ viewpoint. 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 away to the north east at the Villa Gregoriana.

There has been a tendency to ascribe the more colourful and highly finished of the Monro School landscapes solely to Turner, not least because any underlying pencil drawing is often effaced. This work has always been attributed to Turner, but arguably there is just enough pencil work still evident to suggest that Girtin was involved in its production. Therefore, the fact that the colouring is more substantial than was commonly the case, and includes a subtle evocation of light catching falling water, does not mean that the composition did not start out as a simple outline drawing by Girtin. Moreover, if I am right in suggesting that this work is not a simple copy of Cozens’ subject, then it follows that it was Girtin who was responsible for the transformation of the source material, even though it is Turner’s complex washes of colour that dominate.

1794 - 1797

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


1794 - 1797

Tivoli: The Villa d’Este, Looking South West


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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