Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The Arch of Septimus Severus
Pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour
  • image width 322mm,
  • image length 719mm
two sheets watermarked with a fleur de lis and coronet design
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “No49 / F.Towne / July.18.1781” and, background left on building, “white”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “Rome / No.49 Arcus Septimis Severi / [“July [. . .] th[. . .]” scratched out] / Francis Towne / In almost a direct line from the Coloseo & and the arch of Constantine / you go under the arch of Titus over the Campus Vaccinus to the / capitol this way leads you through the Triumphal Arch of / Septimus Severus & Marcus Aurelius which is situated / near the back front of the Capitol; it consists of three / arches composed of Grecian Marble”
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 1818 to the present owner, the British Museum, London (Nn,3.10).

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. 185 as 'Arch of Septimus Severus, in the Forum, with the Temple of Concord, near the back front of the Capitol'
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. 203
Thomas Ashby, Forty drawings of Roman scenes by British artists (1715-1850) from originals in the British Museum, British Museum: London, 1911, p. 13
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 88, 127
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, p. 113
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 80


The Arch of Septimus (now Septimius) Severus is at the northern edge of the Forum, below the Capitol, steps leading to which are visible at the right edge of the drawing (see also FT214). Towne’s view was much used by artists of the time, with versions known by John “Warwick” Smith (British Museum) and William Pars (Fitzwilliam Musuem), Louis Ducros and Piranesi.

The left sheet is much looser and less finished than the right, as is also the case in FT175.

by Richard Stephens

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