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John Robert Cozens, 1752–1797, British

The Lake of Albano and Castle Gandolfo

ca. 1779
Watercolor and graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 17 1/2 x 25 1/8 inches (44.5 x 63.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
castle | cattle | dusk | Grand Tour | hills | lake | landscape | sheep | shepherds | trees
Associated Places:
Albano, Lago | Campagna | Castel Gandolfo | Italy | Lazio
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Eighteenth-century popes used Castel Gandolfo as an occasional retreat from Rome, mainly in the spring and autumn. Cozens’s view of Lake Albano is taken from the Galleria di Sopra and captures the landscape at dusk, the papal villa silhouetted dramatically against the twilit sky. To the left, a solitary goatherd drives his flock home along the Galleria before darkness falls. To British Grand Tourists, this view evoked the very beginnings of Rome, in that Castel Gandolfo was believed to occupy the site of Alba Longa, the birthplace of Romulus and Remus (Northall, 1766, p. 378). When Thomas Jones visited in 1776 and walked from Castel Gandolfo to Lake Nemi nearby, he admired the landscape in eulogistic terms: “This walk considered with respect to its classick locality, the Awful marks of the most tremendous Convulsions of nature in the remotest Ages, the antient and modern Specimens of Art, and the various extensive & delightful prospects it commands is, to the Scholar, naturalist, Antiquarian and Artist, without doubt, the most pleasing and interesting in the Whole World” (Jones, “Memoirs”, p. 55). That this region held such an array of cultural associations explains the exceptional popularity of the design; there are at least eleven surviving versions of this watercolor from Cozens’s hand, each one slightly different in atmosphere and mood. In this example the mood is pastoral and the inclusion of the goatherd evokes the landscapes of Claude or the poetry of Virgil’s Eclogues. At the same time his archaic presence hints at what Protestant Englanders saw as the unenlightened and backward state of modern papal Rome. Surveying the decayed and uncultivated state of the Roman suburbs, compared to supposed English prosperity, William Beckford concluded they proved “how completely the papal government contrives to make its subjects miserable” (Beckford, “Dreams”, p. 190).

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 271, no. 61, pl. 61, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

David Bindman, The History of British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2008, pp.12-13 (v. 2), fig. 143, N6761 +H57 2008 Oversize (YCBA)

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, Mapping a National Style, topography & landscape at the Yale Center for British Art , Apollo, v. 165, no. 542, April, 2007, p. 58, fig. 8, N1 A54 + (YCBA)

John Northall, Travels through Italy, Containing new and curious observations on that country; particularly the Grand Duchy of Tuscany; the ecclesiastical state , S. Hooper, London, 1766, p. 378, Available online in Orbis

Martin Postle, Richard Wilson and the transformation of European landscape painting, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2014, p. 309, Cat. No. 133, NJ18.W72 R53 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Maria Delores Sanchez-Jauregul, The English prize, the capture of the Westmorland, an episode of the grand tour , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2012, pp. 122, 123, fig. 78, N9135 .E54 2012 + OVERSIZE (YCBA)

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