Claude Lorrain Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Landscape with Jacob and Laban
No date
  • [?] image width 717mm,
  • [?] image length 1207mm
Object Type
Oil painting

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Ozias Humphry Correspondence, Royal Academy Library


Probably this is the “Painting after Claude” bequeathed by James White (1744–1825) to “Mrs Mallett”, who was Towne’s pupil Frances Merivale (1786–1851), who married John Lewis Mallet ca. 1815. It is in a private collection.

Associated People & Organisations

Frances Mallett (née Merivale) (1786 - 1851)
Private Collection
James White (1744 - 1825)
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 52
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, p. 99
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 144


This picture was mentioned in a letter from Ozias Humphry to James White, dated 9 November 1808:

In my last letter I gave you to understand that I had not seen Mr Towne; but going casually to the British Institution in pall mall, I found the young gentleman laudably employ’d in making a copy, half the Size of the well known capital picture of Claude Loraine in the possession of the Earl of Egremont wch you have often seen.1

The Claude had been bought by the 6th Duke of Somerset (1662–1748), whose great-grandson, George, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751–1837), owned it in 1808 (figure 1, measuring 1435 x 2515 mm), when it was part of an exhibition of Old Master paintings organised by the British Institution, one of whose objectives was to enable young students to observe great art close up. Towne’s name does not appear among the thirty-three students who applied for permission to study at the exhibition.2 In his description of Towne as a “young gentleman laudably employ’d” Humphry is making fun at the discrepancy in age and experience between Towne and the student copyists, typically men in their early twenties. At this time, the Institution was particularly careful in granting permission to copy paintings in its rooms, and had debated the exclusion of J. Lewis for damaging a Claude loaned by Sir George Beaumont in 1807. Lewis’s canvas “was nearer the Claude than perhaps was prudent, a little colour spurted from my pencil when painting the sky”.3 The incident became a nationwide point of gossip. James White, in writing to Humphry on 1 November 1807, asked after Towne:

If you should see him, pray remember me to him & say, I shall expect soon to hear how “The Arts” go forward. – & particularly – whether Sr George Beaumont’s Claude, has recovered from the Injury, it sustained, in its Removal from his House to the Rooms in Pall:Mall.4
1654 (signed and dated), Oil on canvas, 1435 × 2514 mm

Figure 1.
Claude Lorrain, A River Landscape with Jacob and Laban and his Daughters, 1654 (signed and dated), Oil on canvas, 1435 × 2514 mm

Digital image courtesy of National Trust Collections, Petworth House and Park, West Sussex (NT 486253)

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Royal Academy Library, HU7/28.
  2. 2 National Art Library, British Institution Minute Book, vol.1, fol.98.
  3. 3 National Art Library, British Institution Minute Book, vol.1, fol.51.
  4. 4 Royal Academy Library, HU6/1401.

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