For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) Alexander Cozens

Vernazza, on the Coast near La Spezia

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0677: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) Alexander Cozens (1717–86), Vernazza, on the Coast near La Spezia, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 17.5 × 25 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ⅞ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: (?) Alexander Cozens (1717–86), Vernazza, on the Coast near La Spezia, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 17.8 × 25.7 cm, 7 × 10 ⅛ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4471).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Alexander Cozens (1717-1788)
  • Vernazza, on the Coast near La Spezia
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
17.5 × 25 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ⅞ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Northern Coastal Scenes

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 27 June 1833, lot 83, as 'Vernazza, San Michele, Piedmont, and one near Lerici (3)' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Moon, Boys', £6 6s; ... Henry Rogers (c.1823–78); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 21 May 1878, lot 137 as 'Vernaza' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Spruce', for Lady Lyttelton, 19 gns; then by descent to Sybella Jane Bailey; her posthumous sale, Christie's, 25 April 1995, lot 94 as 'Vernazza' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, £3,680


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.37

About this Work

This coastal view, looking towards Vernazza, near La Spezia, was copied from a drawing probably made by Alexander Cozens (1717–86) (see the source image above). It was produced at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), where Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) 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’. The majority of the resulting watercolours saw the two artists engaged in a unique collaboration; as they later recalled, Girtin ‘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

Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained only twenty or so sketches by ‘Cozens’, so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour, a simple tracing inscribed ‘Vernazza’, was almost certainly purchased at the sale of ‘Mr COZENS’ in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827).2 As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection, now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). Neither the 1794 auction nor Monro’s posthumous sale distinguished between Alexander Cozens and his son John Robert Cozens (1752–97), and, perhaps not surprisingly, it is generally assumed that the source for Monro School drawings such as this was provided by the latter, more famous artist. However, as Sloan has again pointed out, there is no conclusive evidence to say that all of the sketches in the Yale album are by the son. As with examples such as The Promontory of Portofino (TG0678), the source for this work appears to be amongst a group of drawings that Alexander made on a coastal voyage on his way either to or from Italy in 1746 (Sloan, 1986, pp.127–28). There is no indication that John made a journey that would have enabled him to take views from aboard a vessel, though it is of course still possible that he was the executant of the source drawing here, albeit that he traced or copied it from an on-the-spot sketch by his father.

Without the inscription on the tracing, it would have been very difficult to identify the coastal scene. The church Santa Margherita d’Antiochia of Vernazza is nonetheless recognisable in the centre of the composition.

The majority of the Italian scenes sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were described as being by Turner alone, and this generally remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case, some of the pencil work remains evident in areas where Turner has left the paper untouched to create highlights, and there is just enough of this visible to suggest that Girtin was involved in the view’s production, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from a Cozens drawing; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical practice of replication and produce something that approximates to a finished work.

1794 - 1797

The Promontory of Portofino


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).
  2. 2 A full record of the sale is available in the Documents section of the Archive (1794 – Item 1)

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.