Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Tivoli
ca. 1781/05
Pen and black ink, and watercolour
  • [?] image width 368mm,
  • [?] image height 495mm
laid paper, with a collector’s mark “JJL” (Lugt 1479a)
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “Thomas Girtin 1781” in another hand (not Girtin’s), possibly over an indistinct signature, “Francis Towne 1781”
  • sheet, verso
  • “Tivoli [partially cut off at the top] / A View of Rome in the Distance / Francis Towne”
  • in brown ink
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Author's examination of a photograph of the work

Musuem's own information


As this drawing bears the collector’s stamp of John Jacob Lindman (1854–ca. 1926) of Chicago), it was probably on the London art market in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. On the verso is a pencil inscription indicating that it was no.192 in Lindman’s collection. The drawing came to the current owner, the Art Institute of Chicago (1993.256.51), in 1922 as part of the Leonora Hall Gurley Memorial Collection, which was assembled by her son, William F. E. Gurley, chiefly (according to David Solkin in 'Master Drawings', 1978, vol 16 no.4, p.411) from “London sale-rooms or dealers just prior to the First World War”.

Associated People & Organisations

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 1922, 1993.256.51
William Frank Eugene Gurley (1854 - 1943), London
John Jacob Lindman (1854 - ca. 1926), London, no.192


This is a view of olive trees at Tivoli drawn in mid-May 1781, though no date inscription survives. It had been in the museum’s collection for almost a century but was only recognised as Towne’s own work in 2014. Its status was complicated by the false addition of a signature recto, “Thomas Girtin 1781”, and again verso, apparently in the same hand. Washes may also have been added in the main tree and the dark mid-ground bushes that run horizontally to the left edge.

In contrast to works from the Merivale collection, which escaped damage from dirt and light throughout the nineteenth century, the poor condition of this work suggests that it was handled a lot in the period before the revival of awareness of Towne caused by Oppé’s article.

A distant view of Rome and the tower that is visible in this drawing are also seen in a view in the British Museum (FT267), but from higher ground. Also in the British Museum is a monochrome study (FT264) that, though it appears to show a different building, similarly features a narrowly upright tower in the distance that draws the viewer’s attention; there, too, large billowing trees in the right foreground seem almost to arch or gesture towards the tower. In the present study Towne experiments with the same basic idea, of tree and tower as foils to one another, though here the odd dark colouring of the large tree has compromised the effect.


by Richard Stephens

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