Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Temple of Bacchus Two Miles from Rome
Pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour with gum
  • image width 229mm,
  • image length 321mm
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F Towne / Rome. No8”
  • in brown ink
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.8, / Temple of Bacchus 2 miles from Rome [indistinct date scratched out] / Rome Francis Towne delt. / 1780[in dark brown ink]”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Museum records (image)


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1825), who gave it in 1816 to the present owner, the British Museum, London (Nn.2.08).

Associated People & Organisations

British Museum
James White (1744 - 1825)
Exhibition History
Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 140 or 141 as 'Temple of Bacchus in the middle distance'
Light, time, legacy: Francis Towne’s watercolours of Rome, British Museum, 2016
Laurence Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists and Artists of Foreign Origin Working in Great Britain Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Trustees of the British Museum: London, 1907, p. 199
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 123
Martin Hardie, Water-Colour Painting in Britain, ed. Dudley Snelgrove, London: B. T. Batsford, 1966, p. 120


ca.1752-56 (undated), black chalk and stump on buff Italian paper

The left portion of this picture depicts the Church of S. Agnese fuori della Mura (St Agnes outside the Walls) on the Via Nomentana, which is the path curving around the foreground area and stretching into the left distance. In the centre are the ruins of a fourth-century basilica, and to its right is the mausoleum of the Emperor Constantine’s daughter, Constanza, which had by Towne’s visit long been converted for use as the Christian church dedicated to her. The Roman origins of these buildings, and in particular the mosaics in S. Constanza, gave rise to their identification as a temple of Bacchus. The site is near Martinelli’s Vineyard, where British artists, including Thomas Jones, John “Warwick” Smith, and Towne himself, were active (see FT180, FT225). Jones drew S. Agnese, from the same viewpoint as Towne, in one of his Roman sketchbooks,1 as did John “Warwick” Smith and John Soane.2 All were perhaps following the example of Jones’s old master Richard Wilson, who made at least two versions of this view, including one for the Earl of Dartmouth.3 Towne made an oil version of this drawing dated 1801 (FT627).

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings, dated 23 March 1777 (1981,0516.17.52).
  2. 2 W. Byrne after John “Warwick” Smith, The Church of S Agnese fuori della Mura, 1792; Soane Museum drawings, Drawer 45, Set 3, no.3.
  3. 3 Richard Wilson: The Church of S Agnese fuori della Mura, ca. 1753–4 (Ford 1951).

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