John Robert Cozens (British, London 1752–1797 London)
Watercolor over traces of graphite
sheet: 9 15/16 x 14 1/2 in. (25.3 x 36.8 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1967
Not on view
Like many eighteenth-century British artists, John Robert Cozens traveled to Italy to sketch the landscape. Working en plein air—typically in graphite or black chalk—he captured the essential forms, then colored his sketches with watercolor washes either on the spot, in his Italian lodgings, or sometimes, upon his return to Britain. Cozens made this watercolor of the Villa Lante, on the Janiculum hill outside the ancient walls of Rome for William Beckford, the wealthy author, collector, and aesthete whom he accompanied to Italy in 1782–83. By omitting hard outlines, blotting brushstrokes, and articulating details of foliage and architecture with delicate touches of color, the artist achieved a soft, luminous effect. The low viewpoint causes the buildings to appear dramatically silhouetted against the sky, and reveals an interest in the aesthetic category of the Sublime. The evocative, atmospheric style of Cozens's finest watercolors inspired the following generation, and prompted John Constable, in 1835, to describe his predecessor as "the greatest genius that ever touched landscape."
Inscription: Inscribed in graphite at lower right of verso: "Convent walls, Naples"
Marking: Printed at center of verso: large watermark of a coat of arms Sticker on backing of old frame (now in folder): " Thos Agnew & Sons Ltd/ No 28132/ Dieu et Mon Droit/ By appointment/ To the King George VI/ London,/ 43, Old Bond Street,/ Piccadilly, W." Sticker on backing of old frame (now in folder): "45. J.R. Cozens/ The Villa Lante, Rome."
William Beckford (British, Wiltshire 1760–1844 Bath)(commissioned the work); William Beckfordsale, June 10, 1805, lot 54; Barnett (British, active 1805)(bought at the preceding for £4.10.0); Charles Robert Leslie (British, London 1794–1859 London)(his sale, June 27, 1860, lot 399); George D. Leslie(bought at the preceding); T. L. Twidell, Esq. (British)(received by descent from the preceding); Sotheby's, London(Twidell sale, November 23, 1966, Part II, lot 268); Vendor: Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 14, 1997–July 20, 1997.
Palazzo Te, Mantua. "Paysages d'Italia, Les peintres du plein air 1780-1830," September 1, 2001–December 16, 2001.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," January 12, 2009–April 12, 2009.
Charles Francis Bell, Thomas Girtin The Drawings and Sketches of Thomas Girtin Walpole Society. vol. XXIII, 1934–1935, cat. no. 364, fig. no. XXVIIb, ill.
Jacob Bean in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965-1975: Drawings. New York, 1975, p. 56, ill.
Jacob Bean Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965-1975 Explanatory texts accompanying an exhibition: December 6, 1975 through March 23, 1976. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975, p. 56, ill.