Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A Sepulchre by the Road between Rome and the Ponte Nomentana
Pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour
  • image width 276mm,
  • image length 325mm
laid paper with a horizontal crease around 60mm from its top edge
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F.Towne. delt. / Rome No.20 Decr. 12 1780”
  • sheet, verso
  • indistinct, but includes “Decr the 12th 1780 / [. . .] / Francis Towne”
  • in brown ink
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “Rome / Drawn on the Spot / by / Francis Towne / 1780[in dark brown ink over scratched-out “Decr 12. 1780”] / From 2 O Clock till 4 / A Sepulchre by the Road side going from / Rome to Ponta Lamentana”
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.2.14).

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. 139 as 'A Ruin by the road going to Ponte Lamentana'
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. 199
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, p. 110
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 32, 124


The subject of this drawing is a ruin known since medieval times as “Sedia del Diavolo”. It was on the road to the Ponte Nomentana in the same area of countryside two miles north of Rome where Towne made several other drawings (for example FT175) and which was popular with many artists of his, the previous, and succeeding generations. Jacob Phillip Hackert made a view of the area in 1781 and the Sedia del Diavolo itself was often depicted, for example, by Richard Wilson and John Robert Cozens, who lodged nearby in the late 1770s (see the Comment at FT180).1 Towne made another version of this drawing dated 1786 (FT430), perhaps for Thomas Snow.

Towne’s misspelling of Nomentana may have been an attempt to spell the name phonetically—although it is odd that he did not correct the error in his 1805 exhibition catalogue.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 John Robert Cozens, Sedia di Diavolo, 1780s (Agnews).

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