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Circle of Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) - Portici: The Imperial Minister's Villa
  • Circle of Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) - Portici: The Imperial Minister's Villa

    This watercolour depicts 'Portici: The Imperial Minister's Villa, near the Harbour of Granatello' and is clearly linked to a known watercolour by Thomas Girtin and J.M.W. Turner that was painted at the Dr Monro's House at some point between 1794-1797 and is singed 'W Turner' (see photographs). [1] In turn, the Girtin and Turner collaboration was after a drawing by John Robert Cozens (1752–97). 'The villa, situated close to the port of Portici, was one of a number of residences built for foreign envoys and courtiers who needed access to the new royal palace, and these included Sir William Hamilton (1730–1803), the British envoy, with whom Beckford and his party resided in August 1782. It was from here that Cozens explored the area around Herculaneum, at the foot of Vesuvius, and the sketches he made there ultimately resulted in at least eight Monro School subjects.' [2]


    Greg Smith, the leading expert on Thomas Girtin, who recently has been involved in the artist's online Catalogue with the Yale Center for British Art kindly gave his view on our watercolour. Similar to to the known work by Girtin and Turner, Smith believes the signature 'T Girtin' on our work and also the 'W Turner' were possibly later additions. He believes our work bears a resemblenace to a set of copies of Turner/Girtin collaborations probably made in the early 1830s possibly by Alexander Monro. These were recorded by Tom Girtin in a series of sketches in the Girtin Archive in the British Museum and they resurfaced in a sale at Lacy Scott & Knight (11 March 2017, lot 1464). Our work was not amongst that batch but Smith believes it does seem to be by the same hand. The group of later copies of Monro school drawings was not included in the 1833 Monro sale and that part of the Monro family collection passed through the hands of a descendant, May Le Geyt. Smith sometimes mentioned the Le Geyt copies when they are of lost Turner/Girtin collaborations, but he has not otherwise recorded their details.


    Further research could be fruitful as it is a very well drawn watercolour and clearly has a strong link to Girtin.


    Medium: watercolour on paper, signed l.l. 'T Girtin', 17 x 23.5 cm, mounted.


    Provenance: Private collection, Australia; Anonymous sale, Eastbourne Auctions, 17/3/22, lot 981, sold as by 'Thomas Girtin'.




    [1] Greg Smith, Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolour, London: Tate publishing (2002), see chapter 5, pp.123-130 for an overview of Dr Monro's Academy.


    [2] Greg Smith, 'Thomas Girtin (1775–1802): An Online Catalogue, Archive and Introduction to the Artist', Yale Center for British Art, website:, accessed 25/1/23.


    Condition report: some small foxing marks noticeable in the sky. The frame has a few small indents on the left hand-side, this can be seen in the photos.


    We would like to thank Greg Smith for his help in cataloguing this watercolour.

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