• Villa Grazioli, Tivoli near Rome, Italy -
    Price on request

    Signed verso: No 57/Francis Towne/1781/Duke de Braciano Frascati


    Pen and grey ink and washes on laid paper

    22.2 by 32.2 cm., 8 3/4 by 12 1/2 in.



    Bequeathed by the artist to James White of Exeter (1744-1825);

    John Herman Merivale (1779-1844);

    By descent to Judith Ann Merivale (1860-1945), Oxford, by 1915;

    By whom sold to Agnew's, 28th January 1937 for £30;

    With Agnew's, by whom sold to Professor John Malins (1915-1992), 24th June 1940;

    By descent until 2018



    Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Watercolour Painting, 1962, p.150;

    Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, 1997, p.86;

    Richard Stephens, Francis Towne - Online Catalogue, no. FT287



    Possibly London, Agnew's, Sixty-seventh Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour and Pencil Drawings, 1940, no. 133 (as `Frascati 1781')


    The present monochrome depicts the landscape around the Villa Grazioli, Tivoli, which was especially noted for its fine views over Rome, which is distantly visible in the present work, through the trees on the right-hand side. Between 1683 – 1843 the estate was the property of the Dukes of Bracciano. In the 19th Century, it was sold to the Grazioli Lante della Rovere Dukes and became their hunting lodge. It is still standing, the main Palazzo is the Canadian Embassy and the villa is now a hotel, whilst what remains of its gardens is a public park.


    As Tim Wilcox notes the area around Frascati had long been popular with artists seeking inspiration; Poussin, Claude and Gaspard Doughet, were amongst a host of earlier artists who spent time there and Towne was amongst the group of British artists, including Pars, Cozens, Jones and Warwick Smith who sought to understand and appreciate the countryside which has so inspired the earlier masters. In a letter to Towne, 4 May 1781, James White wrote, you must ere long now have enjoyed all the coolness of Frascati & Tivoli, studying the beauties of their Woods & Rocks & Water with all the Genius & under the immediate Influence of Gaspar himself. (Tim Wilcox, op cit., p. 57).


    Unlike many of his contemporaries, Towne appears to have funded his year-long visit entirely himself. He arrived in Rome in the middle of October 1780 and remained until the following March, when he left to visit Naples, before returning once more to Rome, where he stayed until the end of July. From Towne’s surviving work, it appears that the artist found his greatest inspiration in the countryside around the city. 



    This work, numbered 57, is one of a series of 64 watercolour drawings produced in and around Rome. It was executed towards the end of his time in the region and according to Oppé, there are four further monochrome drawings of Frascati, numbered 56, 58, 59 and 60.


    Several of his Italian studies bear the imprint of Towne’s thumb or finger and in the wash of the present drawing, the artist’s thumb print is visible. This rarely occurs in his other work and suggests the rapid manner that Towne was perhaps working at this time and the way he had to improvise whilst working en plein air.


    Towne regarded his Roman drawings as amongst his finest work. On his return to England he used them to promote his work and encourage commissions and he used them to form the centrepiece of his 1805 solo exhibition.  

  • On the Road over the Moor to Tavistock, Devon -

    Signed verso: No2 / near 1 o Clock / on the road over the Moor to Tavistock / August 29th 1815 Francis Towne

    Pen and grey ink and watercolour over pencil

    13.7 by 23.1 cm., 5 ¼ by 9 in.



    Bequeathed by the artist to James White, Exeter (1744-1825);

    John Herman Merivale (1779-1844);

    By descent to his granddaughters, Maria Sophia Merivale and Judith Ann Merivale, 1915;

    Given to their cousin Mary Ann Loveband (b.1865), who sold it as part of an album to Agnew's in May 1938;

    D.L.J. Perkins;

    With Agnew's, 1939, where bought by J. Hawkesley Elliott of Sheffield;

    By descent to his daughter who sold it at Christie's, 14th March 1978, lot 94, bt. Leger;

    Anonymous sale, Christie's, 10th July 1984, lot 198;

    Private Collection, UK;

    Anonymous sale, Bonham’s, 1st March 2011, lot 196;

    Private Collection, UK.



    Richard Stephens, Francis Towne - Online Catalogue, no. FT766.



    London, Agnew's, 66th Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour and Pencil Drawings, 1939, no.108;

    London, Leger Galleries, English Watercolours, 1978, no.10

  • The Lake of Coniston, Lake District -

    Signed verso: No. 24/Lake of Coniston light from the left hand/August 25.h 1786/ F. Towne

    Pen and grey ink and watercolour over pencil

    15.5 by 47 cm., 6 by 18 ? inches



    Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744-1825);

    John Herman Merivale (1779-1844);

    By descent to his grand-daughter Maria Sophia Merivale (1853-1928);

    Her sister Judith Ann Merivale (1860-1945);

    Sold as part of a sketchbook to H.B. Milling of Squire Gallery for ?25;

    With Colnaghi, January 1946;

    Sold to David, Viscount Eccles (1904-1999) for ?85;

    With Agnew?s 1979, sold to a private collector, January 1980;

    Anonymous sale, Sotheby?s, 14th November 1991, lot 68;

    Private Collection until 1997;

    With Spink-Leger, London, 1999;

    Private collection, UK until 2011



    Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, exhibition catalogue, 1997, p. 117 under no. 52



    London, The Gallery, Lower Brook St., Towne?s Exhibition of Original Drawings, 1805, no.86


    This is one of only two drawings Towne produced of Lake Coniston on his tour of the Lake District in August 1786. The other is inscribed 15th August and is in the Yale Center for British Art (see Wilcox, op. cit., no. 52, p.117). Both are drawn from the north end of the lake. This looks west down the lake from the road leading from Hawkshead to Coniston with the Old Man of Coniston to the right and Brown and Buck Pike to the left.


    We are grateful to Richard Stephens and Charles Nugent for their help in cataloguing this watercolour.


  • Ludlow Castle, Shropshire -

    Signed lower left: F. Towne/delt. 1777/no 46 and inscribed verso: a view of Ludlow Castle, Shropshire./ Drawn on the spot/ by/ Francis Towne July 21st 1777

    Pen and grey ink and watercolour on five sheets of paper joined on original washline mount

    30 by 57 cm., 11 ? by 22 ? inches



    James White (1745-1825);

    Merivale Family;

    Mrs Solly 1944;

    With Thos. Agnew;

    Sir William Worsley of Hovingham Hall, his sale, Christie?s, 20th November 1984, lot 67;

    Anonymous sale, Christie?s, 9th November 1999, lot 74;

    Private collection, London until 2011



    A.P. Opp?, `Francis Towne, Landscape Painter?, Walpole Society, vol. VIII, 1919-20, pp. 95-126, p. 107;

    Adrian Bury, Francis Towne, 1962, pp. 71, 95 and 140, pl. XXXVI



    York City Art Gallery, Watercolours by Francis Towne, 1950, no. 1


    This is one of the largest known watercolours by Towne and dates from his tour to North Wales and Shropshire in the summer of 1777. The  first drawing from the tour, numbered 1, is of Bridgenorth and is dated 20th June and the last is a view of Glastonbury Abbey numbered no. 54 and presumably drawn on his return journey. Another view of Ludlow Castle, numbered no. 45, is in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (see Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, exhibition catalogue, 1997, no. 10, p. 48, ill.) and view of the interior of the Great Room, Ludlow is in Plymouth City Art Gallery.


    Ludlow Castle is situated on a promontory between the Rivers Corve and Teme overlooking the town of Ludlow. Begun as a Norman fortress, and transformed into a Royal Palace during Medieval times, it is now owned by the Earls of Powis and is open to the public. The hill in the distance behind the castle is Titterstone Clee Hill, sometimes referred to incorrectly, as Clee Hill (which is a lower hill to the east).  Rising 533 m above sea level, the strange shaped summit is effectively man-made, the result of both hill fort construction during the Bronze and Iron Ages and, more recently, by years of mining for coal and quarrying for stone used in road-building.


    We are grateful to Richard Stephens for his help in cataloguing this watercolour.

  • Okehampton Castle, Devon -

    Inscribed verso: Oakhampton Castle

    Pen and grey ink and grey washes on laid paper

    20 by 32.3 cm., 7 ? by 12 ? inches



    James White of Exeter (1745-1825);

    John Herman Merivale of Barton Place (1779-1844);

    Thence by descent until 2011


    Richard Stephens has suggested that this on-the-spot sketch dates from between 1777 and 1786 and might date from the summer of 1783 when Towne drew a number of Devon views in pen and grey wash such as `Combe Martin Bay? in the National Gallery of Art, Washington (2001.135.1). The town of Okehampton is 25 miles west of Exeter where Towne lived from 1767 until 1780 and where he kept a home for the rest of his life.  A view of Oakhampton town and castle dating from 1772 is in Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery with another version in the Yale Center for British Art (see Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, exhibition catalogue, 1997, no. 1, and fig. 10).


    This drawing passed to Towne?s lifelong friend and executor James White and, as decreed by Towne?s estate, then passed to John Herman Merivale, the son of another friend. It has been passed down in the Merivale family until last year.

  • Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli -

    Signed and inscribed verso: No. 40/May 22 1781/Villa Adriano light on the right hand side afternoon/Francis Towne and numbered by Paul Oppé: 15 B.P.

    Pen and brown ink and watercolour on laid paper

    16.2 by 22.2 cm., 6 ¼ by 8 ¾ inches



    John Herman Merivale (1779-1844) and thence by descent;

    With Squire Gallery, London, 1953, bought Merivale for 150 gns;

    Sir William Worsley of Hovingham Hall (1890-1973);

    By descent to Sir Marcus Worsley (1925-2012)



    Adrian Bury, Francis Towne, 1962, pp. 95 and 143;

    W.A. Worsley, Early English Water-Colours at Hovingham Hall, 1963, no. 68;

    Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, exhibition catalogue, 1997, p.58



    Leeds City Art Gallery, Exhibition of Early English Watercolours, 1958, no.33;

    London, Lowndes Lodge Gallery, Pictures and Drawings from Yorkshire Houses, April 1963, no.33


    This drawing dates from Towne’s most important tour, to Italy in 1780-81. He arrived in Rome in October 1780 setting off for the Alps and home in August 1781. Towne spent about three weeks in Tivoli and the surrounding area in May. Tivoli had long held an attraction for British artists due to its combination of dramatic scenery and its link to the work of Claude and Dughet.


    Towne worked assiduously while he was there, producing over forty drawings and watercolours. `No.1’ is dated 1st May and the present drawing, dated 22nd May and numbered 40 is one of the last. Nos. 40 to 42, all views of Hadrian’s Villa, and dated between 20th and 22nd May, were all at one time in the Worsley collection at Hovingham Hall. Adrian Bury (op. cit., p.95) describes them as catching `the haunting solitude and melancholy of this relic of the great and humane Emperor, Hadrian.’ Nine of Towne’s Tivoli views are now in the British Museum and no. 39 from the group, a wash drawing of Neptune’s Grotto, Tivoli, is in the Tate Gallery.


    Hadrian’s Villa or Villa Adriana was constructed by the Emperor Hadrian in the early second century A.D. as a country retreat outside Rome. It fell into disrepair and in the 16th century, marble and statues from the Villa were used in the construction of the nearby Villa d’Este.

  • Figures in a Classical Landscape -

    Signed lower left: F. Towne/delt  and inscribed verso by the artist: N.o 54/Decr 20/1810/Francis Towne/to/the Revd. Wm H. Carr

    Watercolour over pencil on Whatman paper

    Sheet 27.7 by 21.4 cm., 10 ¾ by 8 ¼ inches



    Given by the artist to the Reverend William Carr, 20th December 1810


    The inscription on the verso of this drawing records that Towne gave it to his close friend, the art collector the Rev. William Holwell Carr (1758-1830) in 1810. Carr became vicar of Menheniot, Cornwall in 1791 which provided him with a healthy income which was augmented when he married Lady Charlotte Hay in 1797. He became a well-known figure in the London art world and his collection of pictures was bequeathed to the National Gallery. From circa 1801 he became one of Towne’s closest friends. He wrote to Ozias Humphry that `I see Towne at tea & supper three or four times a week’ and his house on Devonshire Place was close to Towne’s.


    Given the inscription, it is fair to assume that this drawing dates to circa 1810, a period when few of his drawings are known. After about 1804, there is no record of Towne’s work until a sketchbook dating from the summer of 1809. It was a difficult period for Towne. He was rejected by the Royal Academy for the 11th and final time in 1803 and gave up exhibiting. His brother died in 1804 and his much younger wife died within a few months of their marriage in 1807. In 1810 he wrote his will and moved into a smaller house. Interestingly the lack of pen and ink in this drawing suggests that stylistically Towne is moving into the nineteenth century.


    We are grateful to Richard Stephens for his help in cataloguing this drawing.

  • View of the cataract of the Mothvaye, Merionethshire, North Wales -

    Signed lower left: No.14/F. Towne delt/1777 and inscribed on the reverse of the original mount: No. 14/A View of the Cataract of the Mothvaye/in Merionethshire North Wales/drawn on the spot/by/Francis Towne/1777/London/Leicester Square/June 20th 1777

    Pen and black ink and watercolour heightened with touches of bodycolour and scratching out on five sheets of paper joined with watermark: I VILLEDARY

    31.8 by 43.2 cm., 12 by 17 in.



    Bequeathed by the artist to James White (1745-1825);

    By bequest to John Herman Merivale, 1825, and by descent in the family to his grand daughter Emily Harriet Buckingham, 1915;

    By descent to her sister Frances Ann Laura Solly, 1923;

    With Thos. Agnew, London, from whom purchased by Wayland Wells Williams, May 1936;

    By descent to Mrs Elizabeth Williams Garstin by 1950;

    By descent to Mrs Cynthia Garstin Blackwell by 1962, her sale, Christie’s London, 21st November 2007, lot 27


    London, Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 46 as 'Cataract of the Mothvay'; London, Agnew's, Exhibition of Selected Watercolour Drawings by Artists of the Early English School, Feburary to March 1922, no. 120, lent by Emily Buckingham;
    Manchester, Agnew's, The 49th Exhibtion of Selected Watercolour Drawings by Artists of the Early English School In Aid of the Manchester Royal Infirmary, November & December 1922, no. 7;
    Manchester, Agnew's, The Fiftieth Annual Exhibition of Selected Water Colour Drawings, November to December 1923, no. 22;
    Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Special Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Prints and Drawings from New England Collections, not dated, no. 632;
    Yale, Yale University Art Gallery, Prospects: An Exhibition of English Landscape Watercolors from English and American Private Collections, 1950, no. 60, lent from the Wayland Wells Williams Collection by Mrs Elizabeth Williams Garstin 


    Adrian Bury, Lone Star of Watercolour Painting, London, 1962, p. 151; Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, London, 1997, p. 43, fig. 14


    This watercolour dates from Towne’s first major tour outside his native Devon in June and July 1777 made in the company of his friend the lawyer James White. His works from this tour are numbered from no. 1, a view of Bridgenorth dated 20th June, to no. 54, a view of Glastonbury Abbey drawn on his return journey. He used differing sized sheets on this tour but this is one of his largest.

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