Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Near the Arco Scuro, looking into the Villa Borghese
Pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour with gum
  • image width 328mm,
  • image length 304mm
laid paper with a vertical crease around 60mm from its left edge
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “No.18 / F.Towne / delt 1780 / Rome”
  • in brown ink partially obscured with white gouache
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.18 Rome / A View near the Arco scuro, looking into the Villa Borghese. /drawn by Francis Towne / [“Decr. 1st. 1780” scratched out] / The Villa Borghese lies a quarter of a mile from the Porta Pinciana, / & is entirely inclosed within a wall five Italian Miles in Circuit”
  • in 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), who gave it in 1816 to the present owner, the British Museum, London (Nn.2.24).

Associated People & Organisations

British Museum
James White (1744 - 1825)
Exhibition History
[?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 153 as 'Looking into the Villa and Borghese Park, taken near the Arco Oscuro'
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 20
Light, time, legacy: Francis Towne’s watercolours of Rome, British Museum, 2016
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. 200
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 124


This is a view looking into the gardens of Villa Borghese, north of Rome. The road is probably the Muro Torto. 

The colouring of the figures and, in the foreground bottom edge, the stones that are outlined in brown ink suggest a light reworking at a date much later than 1780. The whole shaded left foreground bush has been gone over in dark, gum-heavy, brown/black wash, which is probably a further indication that Towne tried to smarten up the work.


by Richard Stephens

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