Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Inside the Colosseum
ca. 1780/12/16
Pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour
  • image width 323mm,
  • image length 468mm
laid paper with a vertical crease down its centre
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F.Towne delt. / Rome 1780 / No.16”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.16. / Inside the Coloseo [“Decr. 16 1780” scratched out] from ½ past 10 to 1 O Clock / Rome Francis Towne delt.”
  • in brown ink
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Museum records (image)


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White (1744–1825) of Exeter, who gave it in 1816 to the present owner, the British Museum, London (Nn.2.22).

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. 164, 165, 166, 167 or 168 as Inside of the Coliseo; this edifice is of Travertina stone; or 169 or 171 as Inside of the Coliseo
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. 200
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 75, 79, 124


This drawing depicts the inner arcade of the Colosseum at ground level, with steps leading up to the area of seating known as the maenianum primum. By drawing the two figures on the stairs in an artificially small size, Towne has magnified the monumental scale of the architecture.

This is one of three bold studies of the Colosseum’s arcades (see also FT191, FT192) of a type common in the late eighteenth century due to the popularity of Piranesi’s etchings from which they derive.

by Richard Stephens

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