Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Inside the Colosseum
Pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour
  • image height 312mm,
  • image length 469mm
laid paper with a vertical crease down its centre
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “F.Towne delt / Rome. No.22 / 1781”
  • in brown ink
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.22. / Inside the Coloseo [“1781” scratched out] / Rome, Francis Towne. delt.”
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.2.26).

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, 125


This is the classic interior view of the Colosseum, taken within the outer arcade on the first-floor level. The hole in the roof gave the ruin possibilities for artists to make top-lit views in the manner of Piranesi. Many artists of Towne’s generation were attracted to this and nearby spots within the Colosseum, including Jean Grandjean, Hubert Robert, John “Warwick” Smith, and Joseph Wright of Derby.1

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 For an example by Joseph Wright of Derby, ca. 1773–75, see Egerton 1990.

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