Francis Towne, Ariccia, a watercolour with pen outlines

Italy, AD 1781

'Morning Sun breaking over the Church & Buildings'

Ariccia, a small town in the Alban Hills to the south of Rome, was a resort for the people of Rome and visitors seeking to escape the summer heat of the city. On the back of the sheet Towne (1739/40-1816) wrote: 'Italy Laricea July 11 1781 Morning Sun breaking over the Church & Buildings.'

The watercolour shows this early morning sunlight hitting the foreground and cupola of Bernini's church of S. Maria dell'Assunzione while the dark olive-green trees still retain their coolness. Towne made little attempt to draw the foliage in any detail, preferring a bold pattern and simple, contrasting colour masses. His concern with careful compositional structure and the overall design is evident in the vertical cypress tree in the centre of the sheet. This sense of control and strong outline that defines the forms at the same time obscures any individual qualities of the scene and marks out the work of Towne from his contemporaries.

Soon after his arrival in Rome in October 1781, Towne met up with his old friend William Pars, who seems to have brought him up-to-date with the latest ideas of the international community of landscape painters working in the city. Pars' pupil Charles Gore was a great friend of the German artist Jakob Phillip Hackert who was also interested in particular effects of light at different times of day.

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More information


L. Stainton, British landscape watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

T. Wilcox, Francis Towne (Tate Gallery, London, 1997)

A. Wilton and I. Bignamini (eds.), Grand Tour: the lure of Italy (London, Tate Gallery Publishing, 1996)

A. Bury, Francis Towne: lone star of wa (London, Charles Skilton, 1962)


Height: 321.000 mm
Width: 468.000 mm

Museum number

PD Nn-03-14


Francis Towne Bequest


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