Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • St Maria Nuova with the Temple of Venus and Rome
Pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour
  • image width 317mm,
  • image length 327mm
paper with watermark with a Fleur de lis within coronet design, and a crease along upper part of paper
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “F.Towne / No42. 1781”
  • in brown ink
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.42 / St. Maria Nuova with the / Temple of the Sun & Moon. taken from the Coloseo [“June 27th 1781” scratched out] Rome. Francis Towne. delt.”
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.1.15).

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. 170 as 'St.Maria Nuova, and the Ruins of the Temple of the Sun, and Arch of Titus'
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 29
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. 201
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 126
Martin Hardie, Water-Colour Painting in Britain, ed. Dudley Snelgrove, London: B. T. Batsford, 1966, p. 121
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, pp. 113-114


The drawing is taken in the shadow of the Colosseum, looking west towards the Church of S. Maria Nuova and the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome.

Views of this subject by William Pars, Louis Ducros, Louis Desprez, Jacob Phillip Hackert, and Thomas Jones exist.1 It is clear from these that Towne has minimised the physical drop in front of the temple by neglecting to work up the mid-ground area. Both Pars and Towne have introduced a shepherd and his flock into the undulating mid-ground.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Pars’s version, dated 1781, is at the Yale Center for British Art.

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