Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Mount Vesuvius
Pencil, pen and grey ink, grey and blue washes
  • image width 324mm,
  • image length 491mm
  • sheet, verso
  • “No.3 / Naples March the 18th. 1781 / Mount Vesuvius / from 10 o Clock to 12 / Francis Towne”
  • in black ink except the signature, which is in brown
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Vesuvius, after Francis Towne
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Author's examination of the object


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 (BP28). Judith Merivale sold it in 1933 to Squire Gallery for £6 10s. It was bought from Squire Gallery by a Mr Anderson, who presented it in 1934 to the present owner, the National Gallery of Scotland (D[NG]1807). This was presumably the E A Anderson who purchased FT370 from Agnew's in the same year.

Associated People & Organisations

A. E. Anderson (active 1934)
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844)
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945)
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928)
National Galleries of Scotland
Squire Gallery
James White (1744 - 1825)
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 138
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 90


Towne’s viewpoint is identical to the one in William Pars’s watercolour at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, which is described on its eighteenth-century mount as having been “taken above Portici”, as is the version John “Warwick” Smith published in Select Views in Italy.1 Towne is known to have visited Portici with Thomas Jones on 18 March 1781, as he recorded this in his account book.2 Perhaps the buildings depicted are part of “the french hermitage near the bottom of the great Cone” where Jones and Pars sketched on their walk to Portici, a few weeks after Towne’s visit.3 No equivalent image by Jones himself is known, but the other works show how Jones’s guidance of visiting friends shaped the depiction of this site within the group of artists.

John White Abbott made a copy of this drawing (FT816, now at the V&A), in the inscription for which he substituted “Morning” for “from 10 o Clock to 12” and added “Light from the Right”.


by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 John 'Warwick' Smith, Select Views in Italy, with Topographical and Historical Descriptions in English and French, 2 vols, J.Smith W.Byrne and J.Emes: London, 1792-1796, vol 2, pl.59
  2. 2 Italian Account Book, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, 2003, accessed 18 January 2005:
  3. 3 Thomas Jones ed. Paul Opp&eacute, 'Memoirs of Thomas Jones', The Walpole Society, 32: London, 1951, p.105, entry for 15 June 1781.

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