Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Donkey near Exminster
ca. 1780 - 1790
Pen and ink, watercolour
  • image width 127mm,
  • image length 197mm
mounted by the artist
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “This Sketched near Exminster Devonshire Francis Towne.”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Museum records (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 (BP220) and it appears to have remained unsold until Judith Merivale’s death. On 28 June 1948 Gilbert Davis (1899–1983) bought it from Squire Gallery, then it was acquired by the present owner, the Huntingdon Library, San Marino (59.55.1268).

Associated People & Organisations

Huntington Library, San Marino, California, San Marino, 59.55.1268
Gilbert Davis (1899 - 1983), 28 June 1948
Squire Gallery, London, June 1948
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP220
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP220
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
Three Exeter Artists of the Eighteenth Century: Francis Hayman RA, Francis Towne, John White Abbott, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 1951, no. 28
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 139


Exminster is a town towards the top of the Exe estuary roughly halfway between Exeter and Powderham. Judging by the rapidly drawn foliage, this appears to be of a similar date to another animal study, FT810, perhaps the late 1780s or 1790s. Towne has included a large eye lurking in the undergrowth, an instance of anamorphic imagery that appears occasionally in his work (see also FT205 and FT238). Its meaning is unclear, but perhaps the image as a whole carries a moralising proverbial message in the tradition of illustrated emblem books.

by Richard Stephens

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