- Museum number
Monte Porzio from the Villa Mondragone, Frascati, formerly part of an album; view over valley and fields with hill in distant right with houses and villa on top, mountains beyond. 1781
Watercolour with pen and grey ink
- Production date
Height: 386 millimetres
Width: 500 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- From album NN,01.1-25
See Nn,1.1 for information about the Towne albums as a whole.
Watermark on album sheet: 1798 [papermaker's name partially present but not identifiable; not Whatman however]
T. Wilcox, Francis Towne, London 1997
"[Frascati] lies on the slope of a mountain, and at every turn the artist comes upon the most lovely things. The view is unlimited; you can see Rome in the distance, and the sea beyond it, the hills of Tivoli to the right, and so on" (Goethe, 'Italian Journey', 15 November 1787, quoted Keaveney 1988, p. 23). Goethe, visiting Frascati in 1787, obviously appreciated the very qualities that had earlier appealed to Towne: not the baroque excesses of the Villa Aldobrandini, or the fountains of the Villa Torlonia, but the extensive views, in which the interest of the distant objects overcame the drab monotony of the surrounding Campagna.
The Villa Mondragone, as it is now known, lies on the outskirts of Frascati. The views from its terrace were a major attraction even in the eighteenth century, yet Towne apparently preferred to work at a location away from the house and painted "from the park". The prime interest of this sheet, however, is in its inscription, for this is the only one of Towne's drawings where he noted that it was "tinted on the Spot". With Monte Porzio in the middle distance Towne was looking north-east, directly into the sunrise, which he captured in the most delicate shade of pale lemon yellow. Towne would have been well aware of Claude's reputation for painting from nature in the early morning and also, in all probability, of the tradition that Gaspard kept a house at Frascati for the same purpose, as recorded by Baldinucci (Baldinucci 1845, v, p. 301). Although he must have painted from nature on other occasions, and was up at dawn to draw at Tivoli ("May 15 5 o'clock in the morning, light coming from the sun rising. ..", Christie's, 20 November 1984 (68)), in selecting this of all the Roman drawings to inscribe in this fashion, Towne demonstrated his acute awareness not only of the significance of his practice but also of its historical roots.
Apart from this sheet, numbered '56' by the artist, Oppé recorded three more monochrome drawings of Frascati, numbered '57' to '59', without any further description of their subjects (one is in a London private collection; another may be the 'Blasted Pine' formerly in the Worsley Collection); a final one depicting a round building in the gardens of Villa Dragona numbered '60' is now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
The following label was written by Richard Stephens for the Towne exhibition in 2016:
Uniquely among his watercolours, Towne inscribed on the mount of this work that it was 'Drawn & tinted on the Spot by Francis Towne 1781'. He may have visited Frascati with John 'Warwick' Smith, as some of the sketches of trees that he drew there share the fluidity of Towne's pen style and are indicative of the knowledge the two artists shared of one another's work.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1997 June-Sep London, Tate Gallery, Francis Towne
2016 Jan-Aug, BM, 'Light, Time, Legacy: Francis Towne's watercolours of Rome' (no catalogue)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- T. Wilcox, Francis Towne, London 1997
Donated, in accordance with the artist's wishes, by his executor, James White, and "with the concurrence of J. H. Merivale" 1816
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1972,U.637