- Museum number
Rocca del Papa, from a road below the town, formerly part of an album; view of the town on a hill, a building to right and woods to left. 1781
Watercolour, with pen and grey ink
- Production date
Height: 388 millimetres
Width: 507 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- From album NN,03.1-17.
See Nn,1.1 for information about the Towne albums as a whole.
There is a very similar view by Thomas Jones: see 1981,0516.17.65.
Towne's inscription on the backing sheet of the watercolour, 'the outline drawn on the spot', is one of the few clues we have to the way in which he worked. On the whole it seems to have been his practice to draw the outline in the open air, but to add the colour and pen outlines later on. He frequently noted the time of day at which he made the drawing, and sometimes gives additional information - 'light from the right' for instance. On one of the watercolours of Tivoli, however, he noted 'drawn and tinted on the spot', but this was probably exceptional. The present watercolour is painted in the particularly intense violent and green tones with which he experimented in the early summer of 1781.
Rocca di Papa is in the Alban Hills south of Rome. A watercolour by 'Warwick' Smith of almost the same view is in the Wright Bequest, Birmingham Art Gallery.
The following label was written by Richard Stephens for the Towne exhibition in 2016:
At the very end of the 18th century, a new generation of landscape artists promoted a style of watercolour with a reduced emphasis on outlines and which used strong colouring to emulate the effects of oil paintings. Towne also adapted his working methods, and the colouring of this and the views of Tivoli to the left exemplify the efforts of his later years to grapple with the new expectations. On the mount, which is watermarked with the year 1794, Towne wrote that 'the outline [was] drawn on the Spot [in] 1781' but he scratched out the clarification '& tinted Oct 10th 180...'
Paul Oppé, the scholar whose researches introduced Towne to 20th century audiences, called this view of Rocca di Papa 'the most worried and lurid of all the drawings'. For Oppé, the qualities on which Towne's scholarly revival rested - his bold and economical compositions, decorative pen lines and crisp, flat washes - were compromised by this more painterly development of his later years, which left Towne's watercolours 'too heavy and turbid.' Another view of Rocca di Papa is typical of the sketch-like state in which many Italian studies remained at Towne's death, and which was more in keeping with early 20th century tastes
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1982 BM P&D, 'Francis Towne and John 'Warwick Smith', no cat.
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.649