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

Unidentified Ruins, Possibly the Aqua Anio Novus Aqueduct, near Tivoli, Known as Pompey’s Tomb

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0608: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Unidentified Ruins, Possibly the Aqua Anio Novus Aqueduct, near Tivoli, Known as Pompey's Tomb, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 24.2 × 17.9 cm, 9 ½ × 7 in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII, 47 (D36460).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Unidentified Ruins, Possibly the Aqua Anio Novus Aqueduct, near Tivoli, Known as Pompey’s Tomb
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
24.2 × 17.9 cm, 9 ½ × 7 in
Mount Dimensions
36.3 × 49.5 cm, 14 ¼ × 19 ½ in

‘Pompey’s Tomb’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin (pasted down, but transcribed by a later hand on the lower right of the mount)

Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Ancient Ruins; Italian View: The Roman Campagna

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 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 '"Pompey’s Tomb"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'Pompey’s Tomb' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of what appears to be the arch of an aqueduct but has been erroneously been called Pompey’s Tomb is 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 Tomb of Pompey

As with the majority of the views of the Roman Campagna completed at Monro’s home, it has not been possible to trace the source of this unidentified ruin. In general, Girtin and Turner worked from compositions 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. Few of these survive, but the auction of the artist’s work held in July 1794 contained twenty-seven ‘books of sketches’ and many hundreds of drawings made on his travels, and, as Kim Sloan has argued, given that Monro’s posthumous sale included only a few sketches by Cozens, the patron must have borrowed the bulk of the material from which Girtin and Turner worked (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.81–82). A Cozens drawing titled ‘Pompey’s tomb’ was sold at auction in 1789 (Greenwood’s, 19–20 March 1789, lot 40) but this could not have been the source for this work because, as a watercolour of the monument by Carlo Labruzzi (1748–1817) shows (see figure 1), the inscription on the Monro School drawing is clearly incorrect. The structure on the Via Appia at Albano shown in the view painted by Labruzzi for Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758–1838) is entirely different – a solid tower lacking the arch shown in the Monro School view.

The Arco della Toretta, near Tivoli

An etching dating from 1793 might hold the key to identifying the correct subject, however (see figure 2). It shows the imposing arch of the Anio Novus Aqueduct, which was fortified in the eighth century to protect access to Tivoli, and this has also been depicted in a drawing by the seventeenth-century master Claude Lorrain (1604/5–82) (sold at Sotheby’s, New York, 31 January 2018, lot 2), with the river Aniene similarly winding into the distance. Admittedly, the Monro School drawing omits the smaller arch that in the eighteenth century allowed the passage of the road, and it also changes the form of the vertical extension of the pier to the right, but such errors would not be inconsistent with the artist working from a simple outline drawing with an incorrect inscription. Perhaps the watercolour might best be described as a variation on the fortified arch near Tivoli; certainly, it does not represent the so-called tomb of Pompey near Albano.

The album containing this drawing 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, including in a tree to the right, which has been left untouched. 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 of blues and greys.

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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