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 of artists, and prompted John Constable, in 1835, to describe his predecessor as "the greatest genius that ever touched landscape."
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Title:View of the Villa Lante on the Janiculum in Rome
Artist:John Robert Cozens (British, London 1752–1797 London)
Medium:Brush and watercolor over traces of graphite
Dimensions:Sheet: 10 in. × 14 1/2 in. (25.4 × 36.8 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1967
Inscription: Inscribed in modern hand in graphite at lower right of verso: "Convent walls, Naples"
Marking: 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), commissioned the work; his sale at Christie's, London, April 10, 1805, lot 54; bought by a "Mr Barret" at the preceding, possibly George Barret, the younger (British); possibly in sale at Christie and Manson, London, April 24, 1845, lot 164; Charles Robert Leslie (British); his sale at Messrs. Foster (British), April 25-28, 1860, lot 399; bought at the preceding by George D. Leslie; then by descent to Thomas Leslie Twidell (British); his sale at Sotheby's, London, November 23, 1966, Part II, lot 268; Vendor: Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 14–July 20, 1997.
Palazzo Te, Mantua. "Paysages d'Italia, Les peintres du plein air 1780-1830," September 1, 2001–December 16, 2001.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," January 12–April 12, 2009.
A Catalogue of a Capital and Truly Valuable Collection of Original High-Finished Drawings, The Whole Executed by That Eminent Artists, The Younger Cozens, During A Tour through the Tyrol and Italy, in Company of an Amateur of Distinguished Taste [William Beckford]. Sale cat. Christie's, London. April 10, 1805, lot 54, as "Villa Lanti at Rome–a capital Drawing", bought by "Mr Barret" [possibly the painter George Barret, Jr] for £4.10s.0d.
Catalogue of the entire collection of pictures & drawings, by English Masters, Formed during a period of many years by that well-known Amateur Henry Rice, Esq., Deceased [...]. Sale cat. London, Christie's. April 24, 1845, possibly lot 164 [?], listed as "The convent on the walls of Naples".
Charles Robert Leslie Hand-Book for Young Painters. London: John Murray, 1855, facing p. 263, as "Cozens, View in Italy", ill.
A Catalogue of Pictures, Drawings & Sketches in Oil and Water-Colors, The Property of The Late C.R. Leslie, Esq. R.A. Sale cat. Messrs. Foster, London. April 25–28, 1860, lot 399, p. 21, as "Villa Lanti; engraved in the Hand Book for young Painters–– / (see p. 263)".
Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School, etc. Exh. cat. London: Royal Academy of Arts, Winter Exhibition. London, 1891, no. 16, p. 41, as "Convent on the Walls of Naples".
Catalogue of a Collection of Drawings by John Robert Cozens, with some decorative furniture and other objects of art. Exh. cat. London: The Burlington Fine Arts Club Winter Exhibition. London: The Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1922–23, no. 58, plate xxxv, as "A Convent on the Walls of Naples", ill.
Charles Francis Bell, Thomas Girtin "The Drawings and Sketches of John Robert Cozens: A Catalogue with an Historical Introduction." Walpole Society. 23, (1934–35), no. 364, p. 72, plate XXVIIb, ill.
Catalogue of Fine English Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Drawings. Sale cat. Sotheby's, London. November 23, 1966, lot 268, p. 20. The provenance given here has incorrect dates for the Beckford and Leslie sales, ill.
Watercolours by John Robert Cozens. Exh. cat. Manchester: Whitworth Art Gallery; London: Victoria & Albert Museum. Manchester: University of Manchester, 1971, no. 63, comparative work.
Jacob Bean "Drawings." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965-1975. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975, p. 56, ill.
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