Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Near Devil's Bridge
Pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour
  • image width 171mm,
  • image width 512mm
two sheets, watermarked “[WH]ATMAN 1808”
  • sheet, verso
  • “near The Devil’s Bridge / join / 1 & 2”
Part of
  • 1810 Sketchbook
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; 1986 New York & Courtauld catalogue (image)


Bequeathed by Francis Towne 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), both of Oxford, inherited the drawing in May 1915 within a sketchbook containing FT689 to FT714, much or all of which by 1963 was owned by Mr and Mrs Sutton of New Zealand. On 19 June 1963 they sold seventeen drawings from the book, including this one, to the Fine Art Society (no.7772) for £3,750. This drawing (no.7772/4) was bought for £750 by William Wycliffe Spooner (1882–1967), who bequeathed it to the current owner, the Courtauld Institute of Art (D.1967.WS.93).

Associated People & Organisations

Courtauld Gallery, London, London, 1967, D.1967.WS.93
William Wycliffe Spooner (1882 - 1967), GBP 750
The Fine Art Society, London, London, 19 June 1963, GBP 3750, no./4
Mr & Mrs Sutton, New Zealand, 1963
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915
The drawing was inherited within a sketchbook containing FT689 to FT714.
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915
The drawing was inherited within a sketchbook containing FT689 to FT714.
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
Early English Water-colours and Drawings, Fine Art Society, 1964, no. 79 as 'Near the Devil's Bridge'
The William Spooner Collection and Bequest, Courtauld Gallery, 1968, no. 19
Masters of the Watercolour: Watercolours from the Spooner Collection, Holburne of Menstruie Museum, 1969, no. 69
English Watercolours: the Spooner Collection and Bequest, City Art Gallery, 1973, no. 53
The William Spooner Collection and Bequest, Courtauld Gallery, 1974, no. 24
English Landscape and Watercolours, Courtauld Gallery, 1979, no. 28
[?] Francis Towne, Tate Gallery; Leeds City Art Gallery, 24 June 1997 - 4 January 1998, no. 68
Louis Hawes, Presences of Nature: British Landscape 1780-1830, Yale Center for British Art: New Haven, 1982, p. 118, where incorrectly called a '1777 Welsh view'
P. Troutman, 'The Evocation of Atmosphere in the English Watercolour', Apollo, No. 87, Apollo Magazine Ltd: London, 1968, p. 55
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 141


The sombre colouring, flat planes, and the small space given to the sky recapture some of the power of mountain scenery that was evident in Towne’s 1781 views on Lake Como and over the Splugen Pass. Occasionally in Towne’s work a prominent foreground has the effect of disengaging the viewer from the impact of the mountains; many of the foregrounds that he added late in life to his early sketches were small, piecemeal things—comprising a few rocks, scattered around the bottom edge of the paper. But here the foreground is bold, it dominates the left-hand page, and is fully integrated within the composition, leading the viewer into the scene and towards the distant mountain tops. In its size it is somewhat similar to the right-hand mountain in a view of the Glarus valley drawn in 1781 (FT365).

by Richard Stephens

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