Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Roman Ruins, Baia
Pencil (?), pen and grey ink, grey-brown wash
  • image width 305mm,
  • image length 464mm
  • sheet, verso
  • “No.12 / Naples / March 19 1781 / Francis Towne / June 22nd 1783 / A Copy of this Mr. Downman had in St. James No.79”
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Temple of Venus, Baia
A View of the Temple of Venus looking towards the Island of Nisida
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Author's examination of a photograph of the work

Museum's own information


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 (BP30). Judith Merivale sold it to Squire Gallery in 1945 for £20 and it was being offered for sale by Spink in 1947, when it was bought by its current owner, the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield.

Associated People & Organisations

John Downman (1750 - 1824)
Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844)
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945)
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928)
Spink & Son, London
Squire Gallery
James White (1744 - 1825)
Exhibition History
Unidentified exhibition, Derby, 1949, no. 5
Travels in Italy 1776-1783 based on the Memoirs of Thomas Jones, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, 1988, no. 136
Unidentified exhibition, Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, 1951, no. 84
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 40, 136
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, pp. 105,111


The ruin that Towne has drawn was thought at that time to have been a temple dedicated to Venus, but it was actually part of a thermal baths complex. White Abbott’s copy of a Towne “Temple near Naples” (FT815) may well be based on this drawing. Judging by the inscription, Towne was commissioned to produce a copy of the drawing (FT394) by John Downman, who gave 79 St James’s Street as his address in Royal Academy catalogues between 1779 and 1785. Downman’s drawing is known only from the inscription, but a second version dated 1786 (FT432) is also known, drawn for Thomas Snow of Cleve. William Pars also drew the temple in a composition similar to Towne’s, now at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Towne was with Thomas Jones on 19 March 1781, although Jones’s notebook records their visit to Baia on 20 March. Towne recalled their visit to Baja at length in his memoir, for which see the <b>Naples, March 1781</b> introduction).1

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Thomas Jones, Italian Account Book, National Library of Wales, Aberwystwyth, 2003, accessed 18 January 2005:

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