Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A View looking towards the Apennines
ca. 1781/08/11
Pencil, pen and brown ink, watercolour
  • image width 153mm,
  • image length 209mm
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “F.Towne. delt. / 1781 No.6”
  • sheet, verso
  • indistinct
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.6. / Light from the right hand. / A View looking towards the Apennines. / Drawn August 11th 1781 by / Francis Towne”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Christie's records (image)


Untraced until acquired by Iolo Anuerin Williams (1890–1962), whose widow gave the drawing to Leonard Duke (1889–1971; no.D4231) on 12 February 1964. In February 1971 Duke gave it to Anthony Spink, who sold it at Christie’s on 5 June 2007, lot 129, for £19,200, including fees to John Spink.

Associated People & Organisations

John Spink, 5 June 2007, GBP 19200 including fees
Christie's, London, London, 5 June 2007, lot 129
Spink, Anthony (as owner, also a dealer), February 1971
Leonard Duke (1889 - 1971), 12 February 1964, no.D4231
Presented by the widow of Iolo Anuerin Williams
Iolo Anuerin Williams (1890 - 1962)
Private Collection
Exhibition History
Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 131 as 'Looking towards the Appenines'
Eighteenth-Century Italy and the Grand Tour, Castle Museum, 1958, no. 99
Annual Exhibition of English Watercolours, Spink, 1975, no. 43
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 149
Iolo Aneurin Williams, Early English Watercolours, and some cognate drawings by artists not later than 1785, Connoisseur: London, 1952, p. 154


This is one of several views of the Apennines on the road between Florence and Bologna drawn on Towne’s journey back to England. The composition, with its overhanging tree illuminated by the sun, and a mountainous valley beyond, recalls the sketch Towne made at 5:00 am at Tivoli about three months earlier (FT258). This Apennines view is also a morning view, as Towne has made a point of showing the effects of the sun rising from the east as he made his way north to Bologna. The journey to Bologna took about fourteen and a half hours,1 and if Towne was attempting it in a single day he would have had to start out very early in the morning. Given its place in the sequence of views, the sketch must depict the countryside fairly near Florence—at any rate within fifteen miles of it (see FT303)—and was perhaps Towne’s first stop on the road having left the city.

The buildings that Towne shows in the mid-ground may well be part of the Medici estate of Pratolino, six miles outside Florence. John “Warwick” Smith, Towne’s travelling companion, considered it the main object of interest on this part of the road. He wrote that between Florence and Cafaggiolo (about fifteen miles or three hours’ travel north)

the road passes by Pratolino, a country palace of the grand dukes of Tuscany. It was built by Francis de Medicis. The gardens and the water-works are the objects most worthy of attention: but they contain a variety of grottos, cascades, and statues; amongst others, a colossal of the Apennine, near sixty feet high.2

This is a fairly general description, perhaps based on Dutens’s Journal of Travels3 rather than Smith’s own experience; if he and Towne wished to reach Bologna in a day, perhaps they had no time to make detours. On the other hand, the palace contained much to interest passing artists. Burnet listed the “vast collection of pictures, statues, cabinets, and other curiosities, which must needs amaze everyone that sees them; the plate, and in particular the gold plate and the great coach, are all such extraordinary things”.4

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Louis Dutens, Journal of Travels (London, 1782), p.54.
  2. 2 Smith 1792, vol.1, note to pl.v.
  3. 3 Louis Dutens, Journal of Travels (London, 1782), p.57.
  4. 4 Gilbert Burnet, Burnet’s Travels (London, 1737), pp.141–42.

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