Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Santa Maria a Monte
Pencil, pen and grey ink, grey-brown and blue washes
  • image width 318mm,
  • image length 457mm
laid paper, Whatman watermark
  • verso
  • “St. Maria a Monte / Naples / No.15 / March 31st, 1781”
  • in grey ink
  • verso
  • “Francis Towne”
  • in brown ink
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Author's examination of the work

Information at Christie's, London


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1824), 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 (BP33). Prior to 1933 the drawing was on loan to Miss (Anna) Nevins of Shaw Farm, Waterford, Connecticut (see also FT100; the Barton Place catalogue suggests that they possessed one further, unidentified, framed work), and in 1933 Judith Merivale sold it to Squire Gallery for £6 10s., where Leonard Duke (1889–1971; no.D550) acquired it the same year in exchange for a Gainsborough drawing. Duke sold it in November 1955 to Nigel Warren QC (1912–1967). It was offered for sale at Christie’s on 6 June 2002, lot 10, probably by Warren’s heirs, but did not reach its reserve.

Associated People & Organisations

Christie's, London
Leonard Duke (1889 - 1971)
Anna L Nevins (1861/2 - 1958/9)
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844)
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945)
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928)
Squire Gallery
Nigel Warren (1912 - 1967)
James White (1744 - 1825)
Exhibition History
Festival Exhibition, South London Gallery, 1951, no. 55
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, pp. 70, 152
Iolo Aneurin Williams, Early English Watercolours, and some cognate drawings by artists not later than 1785, Connoisseur: London, 1952, p. 153


The drawing depicts the route to the monastery of Santa Maria a Monte/de’ Monti which lay “east of Naples beyond Ponti Rossi between Capodimonte and Capodichino”.1

The locality of Santa Maria de’ Monti was a treasured find of Thomas Jones, who introduced Pars as well as Towne to the area:

I proceeded to meet Pars, according to appointment at an Osteria in the road to S’a M’a de Monti – In this hollow Way is a most beautiful Series of picturesque Objects, which I discovered by Accident in one of my perambulations – Here may visibly be traced the Scenery that Salvator Rosa formed himself upon – Only taking away the Pinetrees, which were, perhaps, planted since his time, and which indicate a State of Cultivation not suited his gloomy mind, with the addition of Water & a few Banditti – And every hundred yards presents you with a new and perfect Composition of that Master – When Towne was in Naples, I took him with me to see this romantick place, with which he seemed much delighted.2

On their visit Jones and Towne were startled by some threatening local policemen, which Jones recounted at length in his memoirs (for the entire passage, see the Naples, 1781 introduction). Jones’s fondness for this area endured, and Joseph Farington recalled Jones describing the spot over dinner in London, twenty years later:

Near Naples He found a most picturesque dell or ravine, in which He saw the scenery & circumstances of which Salvator Rosa formed those Landscapes which are by many supposed to be ideal. – Salvator indeed omitted the pine tree which is found there, evidently because it would not have suited the character which He wished should prevail in his Landscapes.3

Nine drawings by Jones of this road are known, including two made on 31 March 1781, one of which shares the viewpoint of Towne’s drawing.4 Jones’s notebook confirms that he and Towne spent time together on 31 March.5

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Letter from Anthony Blunt to the Whitworth Gallery dated 1 June 1982, quoted in ed. Francis W.Hawcroft, Travels in Italy, Whitworth Art Gallery: Manchester, 1988, p.104.
  2. 2 Thomas Jones ed. Paul Opp&eacute, 'Memoirs of Thomas Jones', The Walpole Society, 32: London, 1951,  p.104; entry for 2 June 1781.
  3. 3 Joseph Farington eds. Kenneth Garlick and Angus Mackintyre, The Diary of Joseph Farington, IV: Yale Univeristy Press: London and New Haven, 1978, p.1554, entry for Wednesday 27 May 1801.
  4. 4 One was shown, ex cat., at the Francis Towne exhibition at Tate Britain in 1997, and another is reproduced in that exhibition’s catalogue (erroneously dated 19 March).
  5. 5 Thomas Jones, Italian Account Book, National Library of Wales, Aberwystwyth, 2003, accessed 18 January 2005:

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