Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The banks of the Tiber
1781/07/25 - 1781/07/28
Pencil, pen and black, brown, and grey inks, watercolour with gum
  • image width 453mm,
  • image length 318mm
laid paper watermarked with a design of a fleur de lis within a coronet, and with a horizontal crease across its centre
mounted by the artist on wove paper watermarked "J WHATMAN" within a border of two thin grey wash lines
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “No 54 / Rome / F.Towne. / delt 1781 [the year over an indistinct inscription, scratched out]”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “Rome / No 54 / The Banks of the Tyber / drawn on the spot / by / Francis Towne / [“July 25th 1781” or “July 28th 1781” scratched out]”
  • all smudged
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Author's examination of the object


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1816), who gave it in 1816 to the present owner, the British Museum, London (Nn.1.24).

Associated People & Organisations

British Museum
James White (1744 - 1825)
Exhibition History
unidentified exhibition, British Museum, 1934, no. 299
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. 202
Adrian Bury, 'Some Italian Views by Francis Towne', The Connoisseur, No. VLCII: London, 1938, p. 13
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 126


This looks like the Tiber north of Rome, which Towne also featured in FT172, FT173, and FT174. Unusually for Towne’s Roman drawings, there is an element of human narrative here, with two men enjoying an afternoon by the river. It is as if Towne has placed it at the very end of the Roman series in order to indicate his departure from the city and to convey a wistful valediction.

by Richard Stephens

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