Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The Sybil’s Temple at Tivoli
  • The Sibyl's Temple at Tivoli from below
1781 - 1789
Pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour with gum
  • image width 497mm,
  • image length 385mm
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “Francis Towne / delt 1789 [“1789” over scratching out]”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “Italy / No13. / The Sybils Temple at Tivoli / Francis Towne delt. / 1781”
  • the year in dark 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), by whom it was given in 1818 to the present owner, the British Museum (Nn,3.7).

Associated People & Organisations

British Museum, London, 1816, Nn,3.7
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
Light, time, legacy: Francis Towne’s watercolours of Rome, British Museum, 2016
Thomas Ashby, Forty drawings of Roman scenes by British artists (1715-1850) from originals in the British Museum, British Museum: London, 1911, p. 14
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. 202
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 105, 127
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, p. 112
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 76


The round temple standing on the edge of the Aniene falls was dedicated to the sibyl Albunea, and the smaller rectangular one to Tiburnus, the legendary founder of Tivoli. They were extremely popular subjects for artists in Towne’s time and very influential among architects.

This drawing shows signs of having been worked up after 1781, notably in the sky, the heavy shadow cast over the left foreground, and the addition of the date 1789.

Towne exhibited a view of the Sybil’s Temple at the 1793 Royal Academy exhibition (FT574).

by Richard Stephens

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