Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Near the Arco Oscuro
Pencil, pen and light and dark grey inks, watercolour
  • image width 471mm,
  • image length 314mm
laid paper with a horizontal crease along its centre
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F.Towne. delt / Rome. Novr. 29. 1780 / No17”
  • in brown ink
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.17 / Near the Arco Scuro [“Novr. 29. 1780” scratched out] / Rome Francis Towne delt.”
  • in brown ink
  • sheet, verso
  • indistinct
  • in brown ink
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.2.23).

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. 154, 155 or 156 as Near the Arco Oscuro
unidentified exhibition, British Museum, 1934, no. 297
unidentified exhibition, British Museum, 1981
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, p. 124
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, pp. 62, 67


This view is of an unidentified garden in the Arco Oscuro area near Villa Giulia. It gives Towne ample opportunity to show his ability to create decorative patterns through pen work. Nicolas-Didier Boguet drew a similar scene, more humble but with a downhill curve very reminiscent of this sketch.1 If the two drawings show the same view, then this is at the bottom of the Muro Torto (now called the Via di Vila Ruffo), with Villa Giulia somewhat behind and to the right of Towne.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 No.80 in Hornsby 2002.

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