Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Mer de Glace, Chamonix
  • Valley of Ice in Switzerland
  • image width 593mm,
  • image length 882mm
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F Towne 1793”
Object Type

Glacier from Montanvert
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; 1997 Tate catalogue (image)


Presumably commissioned by the 5th (or possibly 6th) Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, it was sold to Agnew’s (no.8280) on 14 March 1956 by Lewis Joseph Hugh, 12th Baron Clifford (1889–1964), for £150. On 22 November 1956 it was bought from Agnew’s by Sir William Worsley, Bt (1890–1973), who sold it back to Agnew’s on 25 February 1959 (no.9668). The same day Agnew’s sold it to the current owner, the City of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum (ABDAG003686).

Associated People & Organisations

Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, Aberdeen, 25 February 1959, ABDAG003686
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 25 February 1959, no.9668
Sir William Worsley (1890 - 1973), 22 November 1956
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 14 March 1956, GBP 150, no.8280
Lewis Joseph Hugh Clifford (1889 - 1964), March 1956
[?] Hugh Edward Henry Clifford, 5th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh (1756 - 1793)
Exhibition History
Three Exeter Artists of the Eighteenth Century: Francis Hayman RA, Francis Towne, John White Abbott, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 1951, no. 64
83rd Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1957, no. 22
Wordsworth and the Alps, Wordsworth Trust, 1990
Brush to Paper, Aberdeen Art Gallery, 1991, no. 120
Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 63
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 101, 103, 139
George Oliver, Cliffordiana, T.Howe: Exeter, 1830, p. 92
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, p. 101
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, pp. 50, 100, 133
John Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800, Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 1997, pp. 218-219


The source for the upper part of this watercolour is FT383, which probably contained a bottom portion, now lost, covering the foreground of this view. Oppé stated that this work was in oil, although also mentioned he had not seen it.

One of Towne’s major patrons was Hugh, 4th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh (1726–1783). This work, however, was commissioned not by him but probably by one of his sons, Hugh, 5th Baron Clifford (1756–1793), or Charles, 6th Baron Clifford (1759–1831). Although the watercolour is dated 1793, the order for it is likely to have come before then. Hugh, 5th Baron, was abroad during the final few years of his life, and his travels through Switzerland may have been the stimulus for this commission.1 His premature death in 1793 was the spur for the publication of a second edition of Revd Joseph Reeve’s poem Ugbrooke Park (see FT813). This watercolour was described by Thomas H. Williams in 1827 as “Valley of Ice in Switzerland” when it hung in the ante-room at Ugbrooke.2 

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 For Clifford’s travels see Ingamells 1997, pp.218–19.
  2. 2 Thomas H. Williams, Devonshire Scenery, 2nd ed. (Exeter: 1827), p.29.

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.