Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The Campagna near Rome looking towards the Sabine Mountains
Pencil, watercolour
  • image width 232mm,
  • image length 474mm
mounted by the artist
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “The Campagna near Rome looking towards the Sabine Mountains”
Object Type

Two miles from Rome going out at the Porta Pia
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; 1997 Tate Oppé catalogue (image)


Untraced until sold at Christie’s on 22 June 1925, lot 11, where it was bought by Agnew’s (no.10665) on behalf of Paul Oppé (1878–1957; no.1791), who bought it from them on 25 June 1925 for £1 1s. Oppé’s descendants sold it in 1996 with the rest of Oppé’s collection to the present owner, the Tate Gallery (T08266).

Associated People & Organisations

Tate, London, 1996, T08266
Adolph Paul Oppé (1878 - 1957), London, 25 June 1925, GBP 1.1s, no.1791
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 22 June 1925
Christie's, London, London, 22 June 1925
lot 11
Exhibition History
Catalogue of a collection of pictures, drawings, furniture and works of art of the Empire and Regency period : select examples of Romano-British art, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1929, no. 26
76th Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1949, no. 24
Early English Drawings and Watercolours from the Collection of Paul Oppe Esq., Graves Art Gallery, 1952, no. 73
Exhibition of Works from The Paul Oppe Collection, Royal Academy, 1958, no. 84
Il Settecento a Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1959
Exhibition of Works from The Paul Oppe Collection, National Gallery of Canada, 1961, no. 92
British Watercolours from the Oppé Collection, Tate Gallery, 1997, no. 37
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 145


This is a version of FT175, undated, although on stylistic grounds probably dating from the mid-to late 1780s. At auction in 1925 the drawing was called “On the Porta Pia, Rome, 1780”, and on receipt of the drawing Oppé made the following description of the work’s mount and frame:

In gilt frame of some age, apparently unopened though paper back split on 3 sides . . . on back and apparently as same date as the frame (1) cardboard label “John Cozens. The Campagna near / of Rome looking towards the Sabine Mountains” in pencil (2) small square red label with Francis Towne in ink and ?in pencil 4375 (3) ?W Pars in pencil & (4) 3 in circle in centre of frame. . . . Within gilt mount. . . . Drawing, cut close or shorn with old newspaper at edges & labels of J.Pratt Nottingham looking very modern. . . . [On back of drawing] erased pencil inscription apparently = (1) above but with John Cozens under an erasure & date 1795 (?), &, also erased, directions to mounter.

This description is not wholly clear but it may be that the back of the drawing originally bore Towne’s signature, which was erased and replaced with Cozens’s. Possibly also the date, which evidently Oppé could not read clearly, had been erased, as by 1795 Cozens was by then too ill to work and the reattribution to Cozens would not have been credible. Nevertheless, Oppé’s note provides a valuable glimpse into the ways in which the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art trade attempted to reconcile Towne’s work with their limited knowledge of late eighteenth-century watercolour artists.

by Richard Stephens

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