Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Head of Lake Geneva, looking towards Montreux and the Chateau Chillon
Pencil, pen and grey ink, grey wash
  • image width 250mm,
  • image length 680mm
two sheets
  • sheet, recto
  • many colour indications, including “dark”, “shadow”, and “dark hollow wood”
  • in grey ink
  • sheet, verso
  • “Head of the Lake of Geneva / looking towards Montra & the Chateaû de Chillon / on / Sept 13th. 1781 / Francis Towne / No.6.”
  • in brown ink
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; 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 (BP84). On 28 January 1937 Judith Merivale sold it to Agnew’s (no.2288) for £30 with FT038, FT039, FT042, FT062, FT287, and FT438, where on 10 February 1938 it was bought with a large George Romney drawing for £18 18s. by Major Ronald Edmond Balfour (ca. 1904–1945), who bequeathed it in 1945 to the present owner, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (no.2734).

Associated People & Organisations

Fitzwilliam Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1945, no.2734
Ronald Edmond Balfour (1904 - 1945), 10 February 1938, GBP 18 18s
Acquired with a large George Romney drawing
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 28 January 1937, GBP 30, no.2288
Acquired as a group with FT038, FT039, FT042, FT062, FT287, and FT438
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP84
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP84
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 129
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 99


This view shows the same mountains of Savoy on the south side of Lake Geneva as the two other panoramic views (FT374, FT375, FT376, FT378), but in this case Towne is much nearer the entrance to the Rhône valley. Given the abrupt termination of the view at both the left and right sides, it seem likely that these two sheets do not comprise the original work in its entirety.

Given the similarity of its inscription with the exhibit’s title, it is possible that this sketch was the source of Towne’s 1809 Royal Academy exhibit View near the Chateau de Chillon at the Head of the Lake of Geneva (FT649). 

Judging from the title given to his copy when it was sold to Agnew’s in the 1930s, John White Abbott copied this sketch (see FT833b and FT833c).

by Richard Stephens

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