Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The Splugen Pass
  • Top of the Splügen Pass. I
  • A view near Mount Splugen
ca. 1781/08/29
Pen and brown and grey inks, watercolour, scratching out
  • image width 149mm,
  • image length 213mm
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, verso
  • indistinct
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Museum records (image)


Untraced until sold anonymously at Foster’s on 27 July 1910, lot 151 (a group with FT228, FT257, FT283, FT284, FT296, FT310, FT318, FT319, FT325, FT326, FT327, FT329, FT330, FT339, FT340, FT361, FT793, FT862), for 25s. to Paul Oppé (1878–1957; no.48), whose descendants sold it in 1996 with the rest of Oppé’s collection to the present owner, the Tate Gallery.

Associated People & Organisations

Tate, London, 1996, T08555
Adolph Paul Oppé (1878 - 1957), London, 27 July 1910, GBP 25s, no.48
Foster's auctioneers (1883 - 1940), 27 July 1910, lot 151
Sold as a group with FT228, FT257, FT283, FT284, FT296, FT310, FT318, FT319, FT325, FT326, FT327, FT329, FT330, FT339, FT340, FT361, FT793 and a drawing by an unidentified pupil.
Exhibition History
[?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 106 as 'A view near Mount Splugen'
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. 1
76th Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1949, no. 34
Early English Drawings and Watercolours from the Collection of Paul Oppe Esq., Graves Art Gallery, 1952, no. 65
Exhibition of Works from The Paul Oppe Collection, Royal Academy, 1958, no. 80
Exhibition of Works from The Paul Oppe Collection, National Gallery of Canada, 1961, no. 79
De Englese Aquarel uit de 18de Eeuw, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Albertina, Vienna, 1965, no. 116
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 38
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 144
Martin Hardie, 'Early Artists of the British Watercolour School: Francis Towne', The Collector... a magazine for lovers of art, No. 40; No. 41: London, 1930, p. 77
Henri Lemaitre, Le Paysage Anglais a l'Aquarelle 1760-1951, Bordas: Paris, 1955, p. 164


The mount has been cut away, removing any inscription that may have identified this view as the Splugen Pass, its traditional title, or that may have placed it in the numbered series of drawings. Based only on the image itself—a barren view at the very top of the Alps with many distant peaks visible—the traditional identification seems reasonable; possibly the view is of the Suretta range. The only mountain pass Towne certainly crossed was when entering Switzerland via Mount Splugen, and this drawing and FT330 fill the gap left by the two missing drawings between FT328, drawn on the way up Mount Splugen and numbered 37, and FT331, drawn on the top of Mount Splugen and numbered 40. If the identification is correct, the drawing would have been made on 29 August 1781.

The drawing has the heavy layers of wash typical of Towne’s reworkings in old age.

by Richard Stephens

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