Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Lake Albano
ca. 1781/07/12
Pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour
  • image width 312mm,
  • image length 470mm
paper watermarked J WHATMAN, in 2010 stuck down to a modern sheet
  • sheet, verso
  • “Lake of Albano / July 12th. 1781 / Francis Towne / Morning sun rising over / rocca del Papa / No.6”
  • Sotheby’s did not record the number 6 of the inscription
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Sotheby's records (image); Phillips records


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 (BP24). In 1933 Judith Merivale sold it to Squire Gallery for £6 10s. By 1949 it was in the collection of John Boynton Priestley (1894–1984), who insured it that year for £200. It is thereafter untraced until its sale at Phillip’s on 29 January 1999, lot 28, for £95,600 (including fees) to Professor Ian Craft, who offered it for sale at Sotheby’s on 14 July 2010 with an estimate of £80,000 to £120,000 (the Sotheby’s catalogue stated that the drawing was in the ownership of John Boynton Priestley, who probably bought it from Squire). Craft also offered FT425. According to Colin Gleadell at (report dated 27 July 2010), at the 2010 sale the drawing sold to a Canadian collector.

Associated People & Organisations

Private Collection, 27 July 2010
Sotheby's, London, London, 14 July 2010
Estimate £80000 to £120000
Ian Craft, 29 January 1999, GBP 95600
Phillips, London, 29 January 1999, lot 28
John Boynton Priestley (1894 - 1984)
Squire Gallery, London, 1933, GBP 6.10s
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP24
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP24
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Private Collection, July 2010, GBP £289,250


This is a view looking east towards Rocca di Papa and Monte Cavo in the Alban Hills. Towne’s viewpoint is near Castel Gandolfo, visible in FT294, the drawing he made the same morning. 

In view of its status as an unfinished nature study, this is a fairly highly finished work, with much colour (especially greens, in the far bank of the hillside) and careful, detailed pen work (such as in the hill town at the far left edge and the buildings in the centre of the sheet on the far bank of the lake). That said, the drawing is somewhat faded, presumably from exposure since the 1930s. In its state of finish it is reminiscent of FT237 and this is probably how Towne left many of his foreign drawings, prior to returning to them in old age when many were worked up to a much higher finish.

by Richard Stephens

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