Lake Albano with Castel Gandolfo

John Robert Cozens

(1752 - 1797)

Lake Albano with Castel Gandolfo

Signed ‘John Cozens’
Pencil and watercolour
44.5 x 62.2 cm (17 ¼ x 24 ½ in.)

- J. Leslie Wright
- Mrs Dorian Williamson
- Lady Dunphie
- and by descent  

- Victoria & Albert Museum, London,1971, no. 31
- Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 1971, no. 31 T

- A.P.Oppé, Alexander & John Robert Cozens, London, 1952, p.149

The countryside surrounding the Lakes of Albano and Nemi in the Alban Hills, south-east of Rome, was a favourite area for artists attracted by the spectacular scenery and by its associations with Roman history and classical poetry. Shortly after arriving in Rome in 1776, Cozens’s friend Thomas Jones recorded his impressions of the landscape ‘this walk around the lakes considered with respect to its classical Convulsions of nature in the remotest Ages…the various extensive & delightful prospects it commands is, to the Scholar, naturalist, Antiquarian and Artist…the most pleasing and interesting in the Whole World – And -here I can not help observing with what new and uncommon Sensations I was filled on my first traversing this beautiful and picturesque Country – Every scene seemed anticipated in some dream – It appeared Magick Land’.

Cozens had arrived in Rome by November 1776, accompanying Richard Payne Knight as his draughtsman. He was sketching in the area in April 1777; a pencil drawing of Lake Albano from a more easterly viewpoint is in the Soane Museum’s volume of ‘28 Sketches by J. Cozens in Italy. 1776 -1778’, and he must have made others from different points around the lake. This subject became one of Cozens’s most popular, for he repeated it in at least ten watercolour versions. Each is subtly different, sometimes more intense and brooding in character and some lighter-keyed and almost decorative.

This watercolour has a haunting, almost melancholic beauty. He has made a familiar topographical view in to a work of the highest imaginative significance and one that is deeply emotionally charged.