Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A View taken above Lausanne looking over Lake Geneva
Pencil, pen and ink, watercolour, gum
  • image width 242mm,
  • image length 905mm
three sheets
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “FTowne / delt. No.11”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.11 A View taken above the Town of Lausanne / looking over the Lakes of Geneva, towards / Mount Jura with the Towns of Morgues & / St Prex, by Francis Towne / Septr 10th 1781 / Evening sun coming over mount Jura”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; 1994 Cambridge catalogue (image)


Untraced until sold on 1 or 2 November 1927 at Sotheby’s, where it was bought by Alexander Joseph Finberg (1866–1939) for £12 10s. It was acquired on 1 July 1928 by the present owner, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (no.1483), together with a watercolour by J. M. W. Turner, for £235 from Finberg’s Cotswold Gallery, 59 Frith Street, London.

Associated People & Organisations

Fitzwilliam Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1 July 1928, GBP 235, PDP 1483
Acquired along with a watercolour by J. M. W. Turner
Cotswold Gallery, London, 1928
Alexander Joseph Finberg (1866 - 1939), 1 November 1927, GBP 12 10s
Sotheby's, London, London, 1 November 1927
Exhibition History
6th Annual Exhibition of Watercolours, Cotswold Gallery, 1928, no. 13
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 96, 129-130
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 98
William Coxe, Travels in Switzerland in a Series of Letters to William Melmouth Esq, T. Cadell: London, 1789, vol. 2, pp. 65-66


This is the typical depiction of Lausanne, on the slopes of the Jura looking south-west, with the spires of Notre-Dame cathedral on the left, the episcopal castle on the right, and St Francis in the centre. The towns of Morges and St Prex, on the shore west of Lausanne, are distantly visible right of centre. Coxe described Lausanne thus:

It is built upon an ascent so steep, that in some places the horses cannot, without great difficulty, draw up a carriage; and foot passengers ascend to the upper part of the town by steps. But these inconveniences are amply compensated by the sublimest views in nature, commanding the lake of Geneva, the Pays de Vaud, and the rugged coast of Chablais.1

Towne’s view is more highly finished than most Swiss views and was mounted and varnished for display. As it does not have a Merivale provenance, it may have left Towne’s possession either during his lifetime or at his death.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Coxe 1789, vol.2, pp.65–66.

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