- Museum number
Grotto of Posillipo, Naples, formerly part of an album; deep gorge flanked by sheer cliffs, narrowing in distance to form cave, topped by man-made arches. 1781
Pen and black ink and grey and brown wash, with watercolour
- Production date
Height: 322 millimetres
Width: 467 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- From album NN,03.1-17
See Nn,1.1 for information about the Towne albums as a whole.
The ancient grotto-like tunnel which runs between Naples and Posillipo was probably built in the reign of Augustus and was described by Seneca as a narrow and gloomy pass. In the sixteenth century it was paved, and it was in constant use until the mid-nineteenth century. The dramatic entrace was a popular subject for artists from c.1750.
This careful execution of this watercolour contrasts with the freer handling of another view of the grotto drawn by Towne on 24 March 1781 (number 9 in this sequence of Neapolitan views) which is now in the Yale Center for British Art. Here the effect of the high yet narrow approach to the grotto is enchanced by Towne's use of shadow on the rock-face.
The following label was written by Richard Stephens for the Towne exhibition in 2016:
The ancient Roman tunnel at Posillipo linked Naples with Pozzuoli and was traditionally associated with the tomb of the Roman poet Virgil. In many cases, the watermarks in the paper that Towne used to mount his watercolours provide evidence about when he may have undertaken work on his Italian views. In this example, the watermark is dated '1804'. The watercolour itself, however, escaped significant alterations, although Towne appears to have gone over the cast shadow that falls across the right-hand wall of the road.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1982 BM P&D, 'Francis Towne and John 'Warwick Smith', no cat.
1988 Oct-Dec, Manchester, Whitworth AG, 'Travels in Italy', no. 134
2001 April-July, Paris, Grand Palais, 'Paysages d'Italie...', no.40
2001 Sep-Dec, Mantua, Palazzo Te, 'Un paese incantato', no.40
2016 Jan-Aug, BM, 'Light, Time, Legacy: Francis Towne's watercolours of Rome' (no catalogue)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1972,U.648