Lot 325
  • 325

John Robert Cozens

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Robert Cozens
  • Vietri and Raito
  • Watercolour over pencil, held in a British Neo-Classical frame
  • 255 by 370 mm


William Beckford (1760-1844);
his Sale, London, Christie's, 10 April 1805, lot 55, described as 'a capital drawing';
sale, London, Phillips, 23 March 1981, lot 102;
with Martyn Gregory, London, to the father of the present owners


C.F. Bell and T. Girtin, 'The Sketches and Drawings of John Robert Cozens', The Walpole Society, vol. XXIII, 1935, p. 59, no. 270.i., entitled 'Part of Vietri and Raito'


Support: This watercolour is on a sheet of laid paper, which has a large watermark. At present it is inlaid into a false margin of modern paper. The laid sheet of paper that supports the watercolour has a light backing of Japan paper. The sky shows very slight scattered foxing. Otherwise it is in a good condition with no apparent physical damages. Medium: The watercolour medium is in a good and unfaded condition. Note: the work was viewed outside studio conditions. We are grateful to Jane McAusland for her help in providing this condition report. For further information regarding this lot please contact Mark Griffith-Jones (0207 293 5083) or Emmeline Hallmark (0207 293 5407) mark.griffithjones@sothebys.com emmeline.hallmark@sothebys.com
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

In the present work Cozens has drawn a view of the small Italian coastal towns of Vietri and Raito which lie on the coast near Naples. Monte Peruso lies above them and the castle and roof tops of houses nestle along the bay at Marina di Vietri in the near foreground. In this watercolour Cozens does not render the actual colours of the campagna or the rocky coast on the Bay of Naples under normal sunlight, but he selects certain moments of the day when the light is at its gentlest and most subtle and so recreates the poetic atmosphere and essence of the view with a sensibility which was only surpassed by Turner's later more highly coloured visions. In the words of John Constable, 'Cozens was all poetry.'1

The pencil sketch for this watercolour was drawn on the 23rd September 1782 and forms part of the seven Beckford sketch books sold Sotheby's London, 29 November 1973 (now in the collection of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester).2 The sketches were drawn mainly to order to provide a series of nearly a hundred of the most magnificent and poetic watercolour landscapes ever painted for William Beckford.3

In 1782 Cozens had been invited to accompany Beckford and his enormous entourage on his second trip to Italy (see previous lot). Beckford was a pupil of Cozens' father and was the only child of Alderman William Beckford, Lord Mayor of London and a man of very considerable means. They travelled at great speed and reached their destination, Rome at the beginning of summer, but having arrived at the height of the malarial season they left almost immediately for Naples. From July onwards Cozens drew pencil sketches washed in grey and blue ink, each inscribed with the location and date, making a short excursion down the coast to Salerno, Gaeta and Paestum he also made several sketches from Sir William Hamilton's villa at Portici and on the beach at Posillipo. Cozens later worked up these studies, which filled the seven sketchbooks mentioned above, into serene watercolours such as this work, and including others with sweeping views of the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius.

1. C.R. Leslie, Memoirs of the life of John Constable, London 1843, p. 89
2.  See Beckford Sketch Books 1782 Vol. III, p. 11, but for similar views see also pp. 3, 4 and 10.
3. Beckford eventually sold the collection at Christie's London on 10th April 1805