Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • “Lago Torfi”, near Lugano
ca. 1781/08/25
Pencil, pen and grey ink, grey wash
  • image width 277mm,
  • image width 466mm
paper is sized 287 x 466 mm with an unused column 10 mm wide running up the side of the paper, paper is watermarked “C&I HONIG”
  • sheet, verso
  • “No.5 Lago Torfi near Lugano Morning light from the right hand / breaking on the distant Mountains / August the 25th 1781”
  • in ink over pencil
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Museum records (image)


Bequeathed by the artist 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 (BP48). In 1933 Judith Merivale sold it for £6 10s. to Squire Gallery, where on 1 May 1934 Howard Spensley (1869/1870–1938) bought it for 18 guineas and bequeathed it to the present owner, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Acc. no.621-4).

Associated People & Organisations

National Gallery National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1938, no.621-4
Howard Spensley (1869/70 - 1938), 1 May 1934, GBP 18 guineas
Squire Gallery, 1933, GBP 6.10s
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP48
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP48
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
The Squire Gallery Summer Exhibition of Early English Watercolours & Drawings, Squire Gallery, 1934, no. 10
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Catalogue of the Howard Spensley Collection: Melbourne, 1939, no. 770
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 91


John White Abbott made a copy of this drawing (FT823). The location of “Torfi”, not identified on maps contemporary or modern, is unknown; however, a location for Towne’s drawing was proposed in the 1997 Spink-Leger catalogue as the Lago di Muzzano to the west of Lugano between Agno and Lugano, with the monastery of Sorengo depicted at the right of the picture.

by Richard Stephens

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.