Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • The Island of Capri
ca. 1781/03
Pencil, pen and grey ink, blue and grey washes
  • image width 310mm,
  • image length 461mm
laid paper with a fleur de lis / Strasbourg lily watermark
  • sheet, verso
  • “Naples [in grey ink] / The Isle of Caprea / Francis Towne [in brown ink] and elsewhere Feby 6. 1788. John Short Esqr / ordered this subject. N.B. price 8 guineas.” and elsewhere “No 13”
Object Type
Monochrome wash

Bay of Naples
Bay of Naples
A View of the Bay of Naples with the Island of Capri
The Isle of Capri, after Francis Towne
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Author's examination of the object

Information at Christie's, London


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 (BP31). Judith Merivale sold it in August 1932 to Percy Moore Turner (1877–1950) for £8 8s. By 1951 it was in the collection of Mrs Valerie W. Lucas (presumably Valerie Willoughby Lucas, n&eeacute Atkyns, of Limpsfield, Surrey), who sold it at Sotheby’s on 18 February 1953, lot 68, where it was bought by Walker’s Galleries for £230 on behalf of Nigel Warren QC (1912–1967), and the drawing was sold, presumably by Warren’s descendant, at Christie’s on 6 June 2002, lot 8, whereafter it is untraced.

Associated People & Organisations

Christie's, London
Valerie Willoughby Lucas (active 1941-51)
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844)
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945)
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928)
John Jeffrey Short (1753 - 1801)
Sotheby's, London
Walker's Galleries
Nigel Warren (1912 - 1967)
James White (1744 - 1825)
Exhibition History
Catalogue of a collection of pictures, drawings, furniture and works of art of the Empire and Regency period : select examples of Romano-British art, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1929, no. 8
Early English Drawings by Francis Towne and John White Abbott, Oxford Arts Club, 1931
Loan Exhibition: English Watercolours and Drawings from Local Collections, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 1949, no. 13
Three Exeter Artists of the Eighteenth Century: Francis Hayman RA, Francis Towne, John White Abbott, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 1951, no. 37
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 146
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, p. 133


The drawing is a view across the Bay of Naples to the island of Capri. It was drawn on the hill of Posillipo, near the castle of St Elmo, which is visible in two other Naples drawings (<a href="/works/ft230">FT230</a>, <a href="/works/ft238">FT238</a>). Three later versions of this drawing are known, dated 1784 (<a href="/works/ft414">FT414</a>), 1786 (<a href="/works/ft451">FT451</a>), and 1789 (<a href="/works/ft558">FT558</a>, which is probably the one for John Short mentioned in Towne's inscription on the back of this sheet). 

Paul Oppé’s note of this drawing reads: “31 Capri (Short 1788) same size as 27. Blue & pink on island, effective. Sea flat blue heavy ind ink on trees wh. are merely crinkle outline or left pencil. He seems only to have inked where he only pencilled.”1 The pink to which Oppé refers is no longer visible.

John White Abbott made a copy of this drawing (<a href="/works/ft817">FT817</a>), which contains a section absent from the original but present in Towne’s later versions. Presumably Towne’s sketch once continued onto a second sheet that has now been lost. A further Naples copy by White Abbott (<a href=/works/ft815"><b>FT815</b></a>), of which no image is known, is numbered 13, the same number as this Capri view. However, as it is called a 'Temple near Naples' it is unlikely that it is a second copy of this view.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Paul Oppé records: notes, ca. 1915.

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