Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The Forum
Pencil, pen and black and brown inks, watercolour with gum
  • image width 324mm,
  • image length 591mm
two sheets, the larger of which is watermarked with a fleur de lis and coronet design and which has a vertical crease down its centre
mounted by the artist on paper watermarked "WHATMAN 1794"
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “F.Towne delt. / Rome. 1781. No.51”
  • in brown ink
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Author's examination of the object


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1825), who gave it in 1818 to the present owner, the British Museum, London (Nn,3.15).

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. 186 as 'The Forum'
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. 203
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 128
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, p. 113
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 80


This south-east view of the Forum had for generations been the most popular position from which to depict the site. Among Towne’s circle both John “Warwick” Smith (British Museum) and William Pars (Tate) drew it. Towne sketched FT200 from the steps of the Temple of Antonius, which is the colonnaded church visible on the left of this drawing.

The watercolour continues for ca. 10 mm onto the bottom-right edge of the mount paper. This, together with the late date of the mount and the heavy shading of the foreground details, confirms that the drawing was worked on many years after Italy. As was Towne’s habit, the smaller sheet was left much less finished than the larger.

by Richard Stephens

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