Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Netley Abbey
1789 - 1809
Pen and ink, watercolour
  • image width 354mm,
  • image length 490mm
two sheets, each with vertical crease marks down the centre
mounted by the artist on paper watermarked “J.RUSE / 1804”
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “F.Towne delt / No4 1809 [over scratched-out “1798”]”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No4 Netley Abbey drawn on the spot / Francis Towne”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Museum records (image)


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 daughter-in-law Caroline Penelope Robinson gave it to her daughter-in-law Elizabeth Pittman (perhaps on 1 October 1915), whereafter it is untraced until it was acquired by Paul Oppé (1878–1957; no.1912) at Sotheby’s on 8 November 1928, lot 105. His descendants sold it in 1996 with the rest of Oppé’s collection to the present owner, the Tate Gallery, London (T08194).

Associated People & Organisations

Tate, London, 1996
Adolph Paul Oppé (1878 - 1957), London, 8 November 1928, no.1912
Sotheby's, London, London, 8 November 1928
lot 105
Elizabeth Pittman
Caroline Penelope Robinson
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
The Exhibition of the Royal Academy, Royal Academy of Arts, 1809, no. 330
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 64
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 103, 147


This is a view of the transept of Netley Abbey, just south of Southampton on the east banks of Southampton Water, in Hampshire. In 1796 Michael Angelo Rooker exhibited at the Royal Academy a work based on his visit the previous October, which is close to Towne’s view.

Towne has given his drawing a date of 1809 although only after scratching out the previous date of 1798. It is almost certain to have been his 1809 Royal Academy exhibit, which he sent from 39 Queen Anne Street West. Oppé made a note of this drawing on receipt of it in 1928, as follows:

In blk & gold frame. on back

(1) faded oval label of Edwards framer etc Exeter

(2) partly destroyed small stamp label with number 4949

(3) gummed paper, octagon, with W. O

                   1584 & Towne drawing (in pencil)


Rough pencil inscription. Mr Hoare (?) left by Mrs Herman Merivale. For Mrs E.C.Pitman 1st Oct 1915. . . . The frame was not disturbed.

Evidently Oppé considered this to have been the original frame.

by Richard Stephens

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