Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Walton Bridge
  • Old Walton Bridge
Oil on canvas
  • image width 399mm,
  • image length 781mm
  • canvas, recto
  • signed and dated “1785”
Object Type
Oil painting

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Museum records; Bridgeman Art Library (image)


Perhaps commissioned by Michael Dicker Sanders (b. ca. 1759), but untraced until purchased by Agnew’s (no.8479) on 18 January 1939 from J. Clack, where it was purchased on 31 July 1942 by Captain J. R. Alsopp. On 3 February 1964 it was sold back to Agnew’s (no.4301) by P. W. Alsopp and on the same day purchased by Paul Mellon (1907–1999), who gave it to the current owner, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (B1976.7.155).

Associated People & Organisations

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, December 1975, B1976.7.155
Mr Paul Mellon (1907 - 1999), London, 3 February 1964
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 3 February 1964, no.4301
P. W. Alsopp
J. R. Alsopp, 31 July 1942
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 18 January 1939, no.8479
J. Clack
[?] Michael Dicker Sanders (ca. 1759), 1785
Exhibition History
Fourteen British Painters, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1941
Malcolm Cormack, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art: New Haven, 1985, pp. 224-225
G. J. Gordon, 'Some English Precursors of Modernism', Studio: 1942, p. 93
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, pp. 26, 128


This is a view of the timber Walton Bridge whose demolition began ca. 1783 and must have been completed by the time Towne dated this painting (see the Comment at FT392). This is the second picture Towne is known to have made of the site; in 1782 the bridge’s owner, Michael Dicker Sanders, had comissioned a view from Oatlands in Surrey (FT392, FT393), the parkland adjoining the Thames visible through the arch of the bridge. Towne’s viewpoint on this occasion is the north bank of the river, in Middlesex, looking towards Oatlands.

The bridge was built by Sanders’s great-uncle, Samuel Dicker, who commissioned a painting of the bridge from Canaletto as well as a drawing, dated 1755.1 In the 1785 picture Towne invites comparisons with Canaletto’s work; Wilcox even called it “a version of Canaletto’s Old Walton Bridge”. Towne’s source was not the Thomas Hollis Canaletto (now at the Dulwich Picture Gallery) but the version commissioned by Dicker (now at Yale Center for British Art).

1755, Oil on canvas

Figure 1.
Canaletto, Old Walton Bridge, 1755, Oil on canvas

Digital image courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1981.25.86

Sanders is the obvious candidate as Towne’s patron on this occasion, as in 1782. It is likely that Sanders never owned his great-uncle’s Canaletto, as Samuel Dicker’s will explicitly directed his pictures at Walton to be sold after his death. 

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Canaletto also painted the bridge for Thomas Hollis (figure 1).

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