Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A View of the Temple of Venus looking towards the Island of Nisida
Pencil, watercolour
  • image width 333mm,
  • image length 489mm
laid paper
mounted by the artist on laid paper with a washline mount (one thin, one thick line, and presumably a further thin line, although the outer part of the mount is covered by a modern mount)
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “Francis Towne / delt 1786”
  • in dark brown ink
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.9 / Bay of Naples / A View of the Tample of Venus / looking towards the / Island of Nisida, / Drawn on the Spot / by / Francis Towne / 1786.”
  • in neat brown handwriting, the inscription visible through a square hole cut in the frame (which, however, obscures the first part of the inscription, comprising “No.9”)
Object Type

Roman Ruins, Baia
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Christie’s records (image); Witt Library; Examination


Commissioned by Thomas Snow of Cleve (1748–1832) and descended to his great-great-granddaughter Miss Audrey Wilmot Snow of Cleve (1891–1972). On 9 June 1950 this drawing was sold by the Polak Gallery to the Fine Art Society (no.5542) for £200 with FT428. There it was bought by Sir Wiliam Worsley, Bt (1890–1973), for £315 with FT428. On 20 March 1967 Worsley sold it to Agnew’s (no.7573) with FT137, FT736, and FT811b (no.0903), where it was bought on 20 November 1967 by another collector. It was offered for sale at Christie’s on 18 November 1980, lot 87. Subsequently it was acquired by Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw of New York, who gave it to the current owner, the Morgan Library, New York.

Associated People & Organisations

Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, New York, EVT 252
Eugene V. Thaw, New York
Clare E. Thaw, New York
Andrew Clayton-Payne
Christie's, London, London, 18 November 1980, lot 87
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 20 March 1967, no.7573
Acquired with FT137, FT736, FT811b
Sir William Worsley (1890 - 1973), London, GBP 315
Acquired with FT428
The Fine Art Society, London, London, 9 June 1950, GBP 200, no.5542
Acquired with FT428
Polak Gallery, London, 9 June 1950
Audrey Wilmot Snow (1891 - 1972), Exwick, Exeter
Thomas Snow (1748 - 1832), Exwick, Exeter
Exhibition History
Watercolours by Francis Towne, City Art Gallery, 1950
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 40, 143
Sir William Worsley, Early English Water-Colours at Hovingham Hall: 1963, p. 12


This is a version of a sketch Towne made in March 1781 (FT239). Another version was made in 1783 for John Downman (FT394).

This is a pure watercolour, with no pen ink at all—even the little boat is defined with tiny brush strokes. A surprisingly effective work, it looks like some of the green/yellow has been lost from the foliage, especially in the areas immediately surrounding the ruin, resulting in an excessively red-brown feel to the work. Towne has staged the composition using highly structured layers, each defined by colour, which lead from a warm foreground to a cool distance. At the front is the bare earth of foreground (red); then a layer of trees and shrubs (brown/yellow) and a more shaded area of shrubbery approaching the ruin (green/yellow), which includes the ruin itself; then the beach, the bay, and Vesuvius (blue/green). It may be an evening effect although the sky looks a little too bare to say for sure.

by Richard Stephens

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