Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A View going from the Head of Lake Como over Mount Splugen
Pencil, watercolour, gum
  • image width 473mm,
  • image length 568mm
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “Francis Towne / delt.1784”
  • sheet, verso
  • “Inscribed by the artist on the reverse, ‘A View going from the head of the Lake of Como / over Mount Splugen / taken on the spot by / Francis Towne’”
  • According to Bury in 1962, but the 2013 Cleveland catalogue makes no mention of this, so it must be presumed lost or an error
Object Type

Waterfall between Chiavenna and Mount Splugen
View going over Mount Splugen
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Museum records; Bury 1962; Witt Library (image)


Sold by David, 2nd Baron (of the 2nd creation) Redesdale, at his Batsford Park sale at Bruton Knowles & Co. on 2 May 1919, lot 629, for 10s. 6d. to Mr Long, furniture dealer of Wellington Street, Gloucester, from whom it was acquired by Paul Oppé (1878–1957; no.687). It was sold by Oppé’s family at Sotheby’s on 11 November 1982, lot 59, for £9,500, perhaps to the dealers Morton-Morris and Co., who owned it subsequently. Thereafter it was in the collection of Joseph and Deborah Goldyne of San Francisco, before being acquired by Addison Fine Arts of San Francisco. It was purchased in 2012 by the Cleveland Museum of Art (J. H. Wade Fund, 2012.35).

Associated People & Organisations

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 2012, 2012.35
Addison Fine Arts, San Francisco
[?] Morton-Morris & Co, 11 November 1982, GBP 9500
Sotheby's, London, London, 11 November 1982
lot 59
Adolph Paul Oppé (1878 - 1957), London, no.687
Mr Long, Gloucester, 2 May 1919, GBP 10s.6d
Bruton, Knowles & Co, Bruton, 2 May 1919
lot 629
David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, Gloucester
Exhibition History
Exhibition of Works from The Paul Oppe Collection, Royal Academy, 1958, no. 81
Judging by Appearance: Master Drawings from the Collection of Joseph and Deborah Goldyne, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2006, no. 62
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 88, 145
Robert Flynn Johnson and Joseph R Goldyne, Judging by Appearance: Master Drawings from the Collection of Joseph and Deborah Goldyne: San Francisco, 2006, pp. 140-1
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, p. 122
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 133


This is a version of FT355, one of two later versions known (the other being FT423). It may well have been the basis for Towne’s 1803 Royal Academy exhibit (FT627a).

Given its provenance, Towne’s client may have been one of the following: Sir William Mitford, 5th Bt (1744–1827), who was the 1919 vendor’s great-grandfather and the originator of his inherited fortune; John Freeman-Mitford (1748–1830), William’s younger brother, who was created Baron Redesdale in 1802 and inherited Batsford Park in 1809; or Thomas Edwards-Freeman (ca. 1726–1808; MP for Steyning in West Sussex, 1768–1780), who had bequeathed Batsford Park to John Mitford. As the Mitford brothers had a significant association with the West Country as MPs, they seem more likely candidates than Thomas Edwards-Freeman.

The brothers were educated under Revd William Gilpin at Cheam, then entered the House of Commons under the patronage of their cousin the Duke of Northumberland, through whose estates at Werrington in Devon the borough seats that the Mitfords occupied were controlled. The duke had bought Werrington in 1775 from Humphrey Morice, whom Towne surely knew (see FT805), and it may well be that Towne’s later visits to Werrington Park, in 1796 and 1799, had some connection with the Mitfords. John Freeman-Mitford became a barrister of the Inner Temple in 1777 and then MP for Beeralston in Devon from 1788 to 1789 and for East Looe, Cornwall, from 1799 to 1802, during which time he was also Attorney General (1799), Speaker of the Commons (1801) and Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1802). Sir William Mitford was MP for Newport in Cornwall from 1785 to 1790, for Beeralson from 1796 to 1806, and for New Romney from 1812 to 1818.

William Mitford was a lifelong friend of Gilpin and offered him a living after his retirement from Cheam in 1777. He had many cultural interests. He was a subscriber in 1778 to Alexander Cozens’s Principles of Beauty Relative to the Human Head and was the author himself of An Essay upon the Harmony of Language in 1774 and The History of Greece between 1784 and 1818. In 1794 he was a candidate for the post of Professor of Ancient History at the Royal Academy. Joseph Farington recorded a conversation involving both Mitford brothers in 1797 when, over dinner at Sir George Beaumont’s, the qualities of Claude Lorrain were discussed:

Coll.[William] Mitford said He thought the Characteristic of Claudes pictures is grandeur, – Sir George differed from him, – thinking Beauty is the prevailing excellence. – I agreed with him & asked Coll. Mitford, if grandeur is the Characteristic of Claude what is the distinguishing excellence of N.Poussin, – that in my opinion all the claim of Claude to grandeur arose simply from the nature of the Scenery which his pictures represent.

A few days later Sir George Beaumont told Farington he considered the taste for art of the brothers to be “bad”. At the same time Beaumont and Sir William Mitford were jointly proposing Arthur Champernowne for membership of the Dilletanti Society.1

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Farington 1978, pp.807, 810, 820.

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