Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • In St John’s in the Vale
  • The Vale of St. John, in Cumberland
  • The Vale of St John
Pencil, pen and grey and brown inks, watercolour
  • image width 156mm,
  • image length 235mm
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “No34 / F.Towne delt 1786”
  • the inscription in brown wash with a brush, over an earlier brown ink inscription (but Towne has not gone over the “N” of “No” or the “T” of “Towne”)
  • sheet, verso
  • “light from the right hand 3 o Clock” in pencil and “No34 / In the Vale of St John August the 17th 1786 light from the right hand 3 O Clock. / F.Towne.” in ink
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Museum records; 1997 Tate catalogue (image); Examination


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1825), on whose death it passed to Towne’s residuary legatee John Herman Merivale (1779–1844) and his successors. Merivale’s granddaughters Maria Sophia Merivale (1853–1928) and Judith Ann Merivale (1860–1945) inherited the drawing in May 1915 (BP149). In August 1933 Judith Merivale sold it for £10 to Miss Emily Norrie (perhaps 1891–1973) of Pequot Avenue, New London, Connecticut. It was sold by “a gentleman” at Sotheby’s on 10 December 1958, lot 78, for £260 jointly to the Fine Art Society and Agnew’s (Agnew’s no.J9587, Fine Art Society no.6713), and Agnew’s sold it on 19 January 1959 to a private collector. In 1969 it was given anonymously to the current owner, Rhode Island School of Design (69.154.1).

Associated People & Organisations

Rhode Island Museum of Art, School of Design, Providence, 1969, 69.154.1
Private Collection, 19 January 1959
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 10 December 1958, GBP 260, no.J9587
Acquired jointly with the Fine Art Society (no.6713). Agnew's sold it on 19 January 1959 to a private collector.
The Fine Art Society, London, London, 10 December 1958, GBP 260, no.6713
Acquired jointly with Agnew's (no.J9587)
Sotheby's, London, London, 10 December 1958, lot 78
Emily Norrie (1891 - 1973), New London, Connecticut, August 1933, GBP 10
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP149
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP149
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
[?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 63, 64, or 65 as 'The Vale of St. John, in Cumberland', or 88 as 'The Vale of St John'
86th Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1959, no. 42
Selection II, British Watercolours and Drawings, Rhode Island School of Design, 1972, no. 14
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 53


This drawing shows Fisher Place, from the road north to Keswick towards the northern end of Thirlmere. The stream running down the mountainside is Fisher Gill, and Helvellyn is the sharp peak in the top-right corner. 

There are remnants of stitch marks along the right edge, and the washes do not reach up to the right edge of the sheet. Although this drawing is not mounted, the attention to detail in the foreground rocks at the bottom edge of the sheet is typical of the finishing that, late in life, Towne gave to works that had been sketched years earlier. The pen line in the foreground is grey, whereas in most of the drawing Towne used a brown ink, and the shadow cast over the lower reaches of the mountain behind the trees in the right-hand portion of the sketch looks like it has been gone over and made significantly darker. The double inscription on the recto is also suggestive of Towne having worked on the drawing at two different periods.


by Richard Stephens

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