Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Urnersee
  • Lake of Uri
ca. 1781/09/05
Pencil, pen and brown and grey inks, grey wash, scratching out
  • image width 155mm,
  • image length 209mm
  • sheet, verso
  • “Lake of Urie / Septr. 5th. 1781 / Morning light from the left hand / No.48 / Francis Towne”
  • in brown ink over pencil up to “hand”, thereafter brown ink only; inscription is upside down in relation to the drawing
Object Type
Monochrome wash

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 granddaughters Maria Sophia Merivale (1853–1928) and Judith Ann Merivale (1860–1945), both of Oxford, inherited the drawing in May 1915 (BP78). In November 1935 Judith Merivale sold it to Paul Oppé (1878–1957; no.2116) for £15 with five other drawings (a href="/works/ft306">FT306, FT328, FT332, FT336, FT350). His descendants sold it in 1996 with the rest of Oppé’s collection to the present owner, the Tate Gallery (T08564).

Associated People & Organisations

Tate, London, 1996, T08564
Adolph Paul Oppé (1878 - 1957), London, November 1935, GBP 15, no.2116
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP78
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP78
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
76th Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1949, no. 6
Early English Drawings and Watercolours from the Collection of Paul Oppe Esq., Graves Art Gallery, 1952, no. 71
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 148
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 98
William Coxe, Travels in Switzerland in a Series of Letters to William Melmouth Esq, T. Cadell: London, 1789, vol 1, pp. 274-276


The Urnersee is the lake east of Lucerne and west of Lake Klönthal that for Coxe was “so grand and sublime, that its impression will never be erased from my mind”. Almost certainly Towne’s sketch shows the Tellskapelle:

On the opposite side appears the chapel of William Tell, erected in honour of that hero, upon the very spot where (it is said) he leaped from his boat, in which he was conveying [sic] as a prisoner to Kussnacht. It is built upon a rock that projects into the lake under a hanging wood: a situation amid scenes so strikingly awful, as must strongly affect even the most dull and torpid imagination!1
by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Coxe 1789, vol.1, pp.274–76.

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