Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A View on the Banks of the Tiber
Pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour
  • image width 211mm,
  • image length 543mm
two joined sheets of laid paper
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto
  • lower right “Francis Towne delt No.2 / Octr 1780”
  • in brown ink
  • sheet, verso
  • on one sheet: “on the Tiber / Rome / No2 Octr [?] / 1780 / Francis Towne” on the other sheet: “Rome / A View on the Tiber / No.2 / Francis Towne / 1780”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No2. Rome / A View on the Banks of the Tyber drawn on the Spot / by / Francis Towne Octr 1780”
  • in brown ink
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Author's examination of the object


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1825), who gave it in 1816 to the present owner, the British Museum, London (Nn.2.12).

Associated People & Organisations

British Museum
James White (1744 - 1825)
Exhibition History
Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 152 as 'Banks of the Tyber'
British Artists in Rome 1700-1800, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House, 1974, no. 139
British Watercolours A Golden Age 1750-1850, J.B. Speed Art Museum, 1977, no. 19
unidentified exhibition, British Museum, 1981
Light, time, legacy: Francis Towne’s watercolours of Rome, British Museum, 2016
Laurence Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists and Artists of Foreign Origin Working in Great Britain Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Trustees of the British Museum: London, 1907, p. 199
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 75, 124
Martin Hardie, Water-Colour Painting in Britain, ed. Dudley Snelgrove, London: B. T. Batsford, 1966, p. 120
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, p. 111
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 55
Iolo Aneurin Williams, Early English Watercolours, and some cognate drawings by artists not later than 1785, Connoisseur: London, 1952, p. 88


This is a view of the famous area near Rome through which all travellers passed as they entered the city from the north. The dome of St Peter’s is visible at the far left, and the Villa Mellini (FT220) is a little to its right atop Monte Mario, below which, visible through the river-bank trees, is the Villa Madama. The area was much depicted by artists, and Towne would have been familiar with Richard Wilson’s pictures of the area, which were among his most celebrated. One example from 1754, which Towne may well have known, was in the collection of one of Devon’s greatest landowners, John Rolle-Walter of Bicton (ca. 1714–1779, MP for Exeter 1754–76 and for Devonshire 1776–79). Sketches by John Robert Cozens and Nicholas-Didier Boguet (1755–1839) were made on exactly the spot Towne used.1

Washes from Towne’s sky continue from the paper onto the top-right edge of the mount, indicating that Towne finished the drawing after he had mounted it.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 T. Girtin and J. M. W. Turner after J. R. Cozens: View on the Tiber North of Rome, 1790s? (; Nicholas-Didier Boguet: View on the Tiber North of Rome, 1783 (Hornsby 2002).

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