- Museum number
The sculpture collection of Charles Townley in the dining room of his house in Park Street, Westminster; classical sculptures arranged around the walls of the room, the 'Discobolus' in the centre, with a man overlooking the work of a young woman seated on its plinth making a drawing, and another couple standing in the background. 1794
Pen and grey ink and watercolour, with some bodycolour, on original washline mount and possibly original frame
- Production date
Height: 390 millimetres
Width: 540 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Charles Townley (1737-1805) inherited Townley Hall, Lancs in 1758 and began building an outstanding collection of antiquities on his grand tour seven years later. He returned from Italy in 1774 and lived in Whitehall until his purchase of Park Street House in 1777, when he installed his collection there. This watercolour and its companion depicting the entrance hall (1995-5-6-9) were commissioned in 1794 from this artist about whom almost nothing is known. The receipt for the drawings in the Townley Archive (BM) is the only evidence for their authorship and date. The collection was purchased for the nation and deposited in the BM after Townley's death in 1805.
The mounts and frames of the drawings are probably contemporary.
Inside the frame of this watercolour a slip of paper was found (an old label?) inscribed 'Rev.d Dr. Raine / Charterhouse/ R.Porson' in a late 18th or early 19th century hand (now in dossier).
Lit: B. F. Cook, 'The Townley Marbles', 1985, pp. 8, 44; D. Cruikshank, 'Queen Anne's Gate', The Georgian Group Journal, 1992, pp. 60-1; J. Morley, 'Regency Design
1790-1840', 1993, p. 228; entry by I Jenkins in C. Fox, 'London-World City', exh. Essen, Villa Hügel, 1992, no. 360, which identifies many of the sculptures; see also J. Walker, 'Maria Cosway', Apollo, 1986, pp. 320-2 (where attr. to M Cosway).
See also K. Sloan, 'A Noble Art', BM exh. cat., 2000, no. 167 (text below):
With his friends Sir William Hamilton and Richard Payne Knight, Charles Townley (1737-1805) was one of the most distinguished collectors of his day. One of the main purposes of collecting was to improve public taste at the same time as displaying one's own taste and connoisseurship. Many collectors did so in their country houses, to which the gentry 'on tour' around Britain were generally admitted; but the Duke of Richmond had opened his gallery of sculpture in 1758 in Whitehall where artists as well as others were encouraged to visit and draw under Cipriani's guidance. Charles Townley similarly encouraged visitors, even providing a guide to his collection which became one of the sights of London. Visitors are seen consulting the guide in the view of the Entrance Hall which is the companion to this watercolour.
Sir William Hamilton, whose collections of paintings, sculpture, antiquities and especially vases were displayed in his residence in Naples, where Townley had seen them in 1772, also wanted his reputation as a connoisseur to be recognized in London during his absence. He published his first collection of vases and antiquities and sold it (at a loss) to the British Museum, where, again, artists and other visitors were encouraged to study them and improve their own taste and ultimately British design in general. Like Hamilton and Payne Knight, Charles Townley was a Trustee of the British Museum and also wanted the nation to benefit from his collection. He originally planned to bequeath it to the Museum, as Payne Knight was to do, but instead he left it his family on the condition they build a suitable gallery. When the family could not meet the condition, like Sir Hans Sloane's collection, Townley's was purchased for the nation by an act of parliament.
On his return from his final trip to Italy in 1777, Townley bought the house at 7 Park Street (now 14 Queen Anne's Gate) and adapted it for the optimum display of his collection, to which he continued to add. One of his last major purchases was the Discobolus, excavated in 1791 and seen as the main focus of the room in this record in watercolour which he seems to have commissioned in 1794 or 1795. The same sculpture is the distant focal point of the companion view of the Hall, for which he paid Chambers ,5. 5s. 0d. on 21st October 1795. For comparison of contemporary values, the following month he paid ,3. 3s. 0d. for the second volume of the Hamilton vases illustrated by Tischbein. In February that year he had paid Chambers ,2. 2s. 0d. for some unspecified drawings and in August ,1. 1s. 0d. for 'drawing gems'. Apart from these payments and the pair of watercolours of Park Street, Chambers is unknown. It is possible that he may be the W.A. Chalmers who exhibited interiors at the Royal Academy from 1790-94.
It is clear from the way the interior was laid out that Townley's intended these rooms of his home to be more for public than private benefit; admission to his collection was free and the decorations were designed to set off the sculptures to their best advantage. Colours were chosen to enhance them and the columns installed to separate them visually from each other. The three sculptures across the foreground in this view usually rested against the wall and window behind the viewer. Women artists, whether amateur or professional, were not permitted to draw nude from life, but it was acceptable to learn from casts or the acknowledged perfection of antiquity. The pose of the fallen athlete being studied here would demand advanced skills in foreshortening; it is doubtful that a drawing master would be permitted to advise as closely as shown here, but a father or spouse might demonstrate his own accomplishment and skills as an amateur and a connoisseur, by publicly encouraging his daughter or wife in this fashionable pursuit.
Literature: British Museum Archive, Charles Townley papers, 'Abstract of Payments 1795' (I am grateful to Gerard Vaughan for pointing out the existence of these accounts and Christoper Date for finding them); B.E. Cook, The Townley Marbles, BM 1981; John Ingamells, Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers to Italy, pp. 946-8; I. Jenkins in I. Bignamini and A. Wilton, The Grand Tour, exh. Tate, 1996, no.214
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1992 Jun-Aug, Essen, Villa Hügel, 'London-World City', no.360
1995/6 Sept-May, BM P&D, Recent Acquisitions 1991-5
1996/7 Oct-Jan, London, Tate, Grand Tour: Lure of Italy/18thC, no.213
1997 Feb-Apr Rome, Pal Esposizione, Grand Tour
2000 May-Sep BM P&D, 'A Noble Art', no.167
2001, Oct-Dec, London, Soane Museum, 'Marble Mania'
2003, April-Sep, BM, Mus of Mind: Art and Memory in World Cultures
2015 Mar - Jun, Haarlem, Teylers Museum, 'In Pursuit of the Classical Ideal: Artists and the Antique'
2015 Jun-Sep, London, Sir John Soane Museum, 'In Pursuit of the Classical Ideal: Artists and the Antique'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Lord O'Hagan, a descendant of Townley, sold this pair of drawings (1995-5-6-8,9) as part the Townley archive at Sotheby's in 1985, when it was purchased by F. Koch who later sold the archive to the British Museum. The archive sold to the BM did not include these two drawings, which the BM was able to purchase when they were consigned to Sotheby's in 1995.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number