Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Naples
Pencil, pen and grey ink, grey and grey-brown washes
  • image width 326mm,
  • image length 470mm
  • sheet, verso
  • “No.6 / Naples / March 19th. 1781 / Francis Towne / From 10 till 12 o’clock / sun from the left in the morning out / of the picture and the right in the after / -noon”
  • in grey ink except "Francis Towne" which is in brown ink
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Author's examination of the work

Author's examination of a photograph of the work

Catalogue of The Great Age of British Watercolours 1750-1880, Royal Academy of Arts, 1993


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 (BP29). On 26 February 1934 Judith Merivale sold it to Agnew’s (no.11573) for £8, where it was bought the same day by Miss Close for £12 12s. It was subsequently owned by Mrs E. K. Jacobs, who sold it at Sotheby’s on 13 March 1980, lot 165, where it was bought by Leger Galleries, who sold it to an American private collector.

Associated People & Organisations

Thomas Agnew & Sons
Miss Close
Mrs E. K. Jacobs
Leger Galleries
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844)
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945)
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928)
Private Collection
James White (1744 - 1825)
Exhibition History
The Fitch Collection A Record of the Major English Watercolours and Drawings Collected by Dr Marc Fitch, Leger Galleries, 1988
The Great Age of British Watercolours 1750-1880, Royal Academy of Arts, 1993
Dreams & Echoes: Drawings and Sculpture in the David and Celia Hilliard Collection, Art Institute of Chicago, 20 October 2013 - 16 February 2016
ed. Suzanne Folds McCullagh, Dreams and Echoes: Drawings and Sculpture in the David and Celia Hilliard Collection, Yale University Press: Chicago, 2013, cat. 25, pp. 72-73, 75 (color ill.).


These buildings are the same as those above the Bay of Naples near Castel Sant’Elmo depicted in a gouache by Saviero della Gatta, active in Naples from the late 1770s. Towne made his panoramic view (FT230) in the vicinity of this spot and it is tempting to consider this drawing as the right portion of another broad panoramic view over the Bay of Naples, of the kind della Gatta made, especially as Towne noted both morning and afternoon lighting directions on the sheet, although he appears to have completed it (at any rate this portion of it) before lunch, suggesting that it is only one part of a larger work that he worked on for the whole day.

Towne’s pen drawing describes the landscape and buildings in some detail. His treatment of the building shows some of the interest in commonplace architectural features that Thomas Jones developed in his oil sketches the following year. However, in several places small incidents betray Towne’s habit of overruling detail in favour of compositional harmony and decorative effect. In the left foreground, for instance, Towne has left unfinished some markings of leaves. A second example is evident in the dark right-hand portion of the drawing, just below and slightly to the left of the chapel building in the far right, where an archway, clearly intended as part of a building, has been integrated within a tree.

the Bay of Naples

Figure 1.
Saviero della Gatta, late 18th/early 19th century, the Bay of Naples

by Richard Stephens

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