Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • On the side of the Rhine near the Source
  • On the Side of the Rhine near the Source, Light Coming from the Right
ca. 1781/08
Pencil, pen and grey ink, brown, grey, and blue washes
  • image width 286mm,
  • image length 294mm
on paper watermarked Heawood 3348 (ie HONIG]
  • sheet, verso
  • No4 No17 / August”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “On the side of the Rhine near the source, light coming from the right [hand side, Aug 29th.?]”
  • Formerly inscribed in ink “on a separate slip of paper on the mount” (according to an old card index file in the museum records, which also states that it is no longer with the drawing)
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Museum records (image)


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), both of Oxford, inherited the drawing in May 1915 (BP62, On the side of the Rhine near the source Aug 29 No.17). In 1937 Judith Merivale sold it to Squire Gallery for £4 14s. 6d. Iolo Anuerin Williams (1890–1962) acquired this drawing at an unknown date and it was bought from him/P&D Colnaghi in August 1964 for £700 by Paul Mellon (1907–1999). Mellon gave it to the present owner, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (B1977.14.5770; gift to Yale, December 1977).

Associated People & Organisations

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, December 1977, B1977.14.5770
Mr Paul Mellon (1907 - 1999), August 1964, GBP 700
Iolo Anuerin Williams (1890 - 1962)
Squire Gallery, London, 1937, GBP 4 14s. 6d.
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP62
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP62
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 149
William Coxe, Travels in Switzerland in a Series of Letters to William Melmouth Esq, T. Cadell: London, 1789, vol 3, pp. 168-169


This is one of several drawings Towne made while descending Splugen, where by Coxe’s account “the road continues by the side of the Hynder Rhine, through a mountainous region, which presents at every step the most awful magnificence of scenery”.1

Iolo Williams wrote of this drawing: “I believe this is only the visible section of a larger drawing, the remainder (unfinished) being folded back in the frame, though possibly it has been cut off. At any rate I once saw it (before it was mine) with an unfinished section visible.”2 Bury stated that his inscription was taken from Squire Gallery’s label on the back of the frame, and Yale’s records say that a transcript of the inscription was on a “piece of an old mount”, reading “on the side of the side of [sic] the Rhine near the source, light coming from the right Hand”. The only inscription now surviving is “No4 No17 / August 29”, although the number 29 may be obscured by museum tape. Williams’s comment, about having seen an unfinished portion of the drawing before he acquired it, surely means either that he did not buy it directly from Squire Gallery, or else that the gallery itself cut or folded the drawing. The sheet is in poor condition, with tears and dirt along the top edge. The bulk of the inscription must have been on the lost unfinished portion, and is upside down in relation to the image. The remaining words are cut off, which is one indication that it was the right-hand part of the drawing that has been lost. Other signs of this are the sharp right edge of the sheet, in contrast to the somewhat dirtier and less regular left edge, and the fact that Towne has drawn right up to the right edge, with lines clearly intended to extend beyond it, whereas at the bottom-left corner of the sheet Towne has ended his washes a few millimetres from the edge. This being so, we can only speculate what the drawing was originally meant to look like. Even so, it is difficult to imagine that the lost area would have been taken up with anything other than a large area of dark foliage, something he had experimented with successfully in Italy a few weeks before (for example FT292 and FT297).

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Coxe 1789, vol.3, pp.168–69.
  2. 2 Bury 1962, p.149.

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