Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Near the Arco Oscuro
  • A hollow near the Arco Oscuro
pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour
  • image width 320mm,
  • image length 472mm
laid paper with a vertical crease across its centre
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower centre
  • "F.Towne. delt. Rome / Novr. 28. 1780. No.14"
  • in black ink
  • artist's mount, verso
  • "No.14 / Near the Arco Scuro. [scratched out "May 7th. 1781"] / 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 of Exeter (1744-1825), who gave it in 1816 to the present owner, the British Museum, London (1972.U.730 / Nn.2.20)

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. 298
British Artists in Rome 1700-1800, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House, 1974, no. 140
unidentified exhibition, British Museum, 1981
British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860 at the British Museum, British Museum, 1985, no. 33
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. 76, 124
Henri Lemaitre, Le Paysage Anglais a l'Aquarelle 1760-1951, Bordas: Paris, 1955, p. 154
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 67


This study of foliage was made near the Arco Oscuro (literally “dark arch”), an area of countryside beside the Tiber and near Villa Giulia, north of Rome. This place, popular with artists because of the views available of the Vatican, was named after an ancient cave, adjacent to Villa Giulia, which contained a chapel whose entrance was built by Pope Innocentius XI Odescalchi in 1686. Towne made several drawings in this area (FT185, FT187, FT188, FT208, FT211), all of which feature a well-built road, very probably the Via Flaminia.

Towne has used ink applied with a brush to define areas of the foliage foreground left, which may be work done later than 1781.

by Richard Stephens

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