Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A View of Lake Maggiore from Laveno
  • Lago Maggiore, No. 8
Pencil, pen and grey and brown inks, grey wash
  • image width 286mm,
  • image length 465mm
  • sheet, recto
  • “snow”
  • in ink
  • sheet, verso
  • “This drawing to be done for Miss Baring / 10 Guineas / Monte Simplen Lacde Maggiore / August 26, 1781 / the morning light from the / left hand / A View of Lago Maggiore / taken from Lavano with Isola Bella on the left hand / and Isola Madre on the right the two Borromean Islands / August 26th, 1781 / Count Borromeo / A little below Sesti the lake empties itself into the river / Teuse, Tefrin or Ticino, which properly is the Eflux of the / Lago Maggiore / The Tesin falls into the Po and is excessively / rapid and its an outlet of that vast Lake / the Lago Maggiore”
  • according to Oppé, this drawing was numbered “8”, although no number is now visible
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Paul Mellon Centre (image)


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1825), on whose death it passed to Towne’s residuary legatee John Herman Merivale (1779–1844) and his successors. Merivale’s granddaughters Maria Sophia Merivale (1853–1928) and Judith Ann Merivale (1860–1945), both of Oxford, inherited the drawing in May 1915 (BP50). On 21 October 1935 Judith Merivale sold it to Paul Oppé (1878–1957; no.2111) for £15 with five other drawings (FT306, FT328, FT332, FT335, FT336; Paul Oppé’s records suggest that it was sold in November 1935 for £8). Oppé’s descendants sold it in 1996 with the rest of Oppé’s collection to the present owner, the Tate Gallery (T08187).

Associated People & Organisations

Tate, London, 1996, T08187
Adolph Paul Oppé (1878 - 1957), London, 21 October 1935, GBP 15, no.2111
Acquired with FT306, FT328, FT332, FT335, FT336
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP50
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP50
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
76th Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1949, no. 15
Exhibition of Works from The Paul Oppe Collection, Royal Academy, 1958, no. 85
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 145
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 91


This is a view of Lake Maggiore from Laveno, a small town on the east shore of the lake opposite the Borromean Islands, with the Alps beyond. The drawing shows both Isola Bella and Isola Madre, the property of the Borromeo family.

Watercolor over graphite on medium, moderately textured, cream laid paper, laid down on original mount, circa 1781

A John White Abbott copy of this drawing exists (FT820), which includes a section to the right lost from Towne’s original. John “Warwick” Smith’s drew the scene from a similar viewpoint (Yale Center for British Art).

The likelihood is that the copy that Towne noted in his inscription was made in the 1780s. Miss Baring’s drawing might conceivably be FT413, dated 1784. Miss Baring was very probably a daughter of one of the Baring brothers who were prominent in Exeter, and nationally, around the end of the eighteenth century. Together, the three brothers had sixteen daughters, so it is not possible to identify Towne’s customer. John Baring (1730–1816) had four daughters: Ann, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Margaret; Francis (1740–1810), five: Harriet, Maria, Dorothy Elizabeth, Frances, and Lydia; and Charles (1742–1829), seven: Jaquetta, Frances, Eleanor, Mary, Emily, Lucy, and Caroline. The three brothers were the sons of a merchant from Bremen in Germany, Johann Baring (1697–1748). John and Francis Baring both became influential national figures, John serving as MP for Exeter between 1776 and 1800, and Francis as Chairman of the East India Company in 1792–93 and an MP from 1784 to 1806. The Baring daughters were themselves prominent in Exeter society and were known in the circle that included Towne’s friends and customers. In 1786 Charlotte, daughter of John Baring, married John Short of Bickham, one of Towne’s patrons (FT240), and in 1790 Frances, daughter of Charles Baring, married William (see FT876), the son of Towne’s musician friend William Jackson, whose house, Cowley Place, was very near to Barton Place. In 1791 Frances’s sister Jaquetta married Sir Stafford Northcote of Pynes, another nearby estate where Towne had sketched (FT143). Charles Baring’s daughter Lucy was a close friend of Frances, daughter of John Merivale, and after Lucy’s death in 1815 Frances married her widower, John Lewis Mallet of the Audit Office.

by Richard Stephens

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.