- Museum number
At Tivoli, above the Falls, formerly part of an album; view of a river with figures amongst tall trees on either bank and in a boat, a building partly hidden by trees in the mid-distance, and beyond, mountains. 1781
Watercolour, with pen and grey ink
- Production date
Height: 303 millimetres
Width: 495 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- From album NN,03.1-17
See Nn,1.1 for information about the Towne albums as a whole.
T. Wilcox, Francis Towne, London 1997
Towne spent more than two weeks at Tivoli, exploring the town and its surroundings with customary thoroughness. He painted the major landmarks of the Villa of Maecaenas and the Temple of the Sibyl, the latter in two widely divergent guises. In one watercolour, 'Tivoli from below the Falls', the temple is seen from the very base of the falls, crowning the tree-covered cliffs which rise almost to the top of the large sheet (Tate Gallery 1996, no. 113). In the other Towne is stationed on the bank immediately below the temple platform with the circle of columns towering giddily above him (the watercolour is dated 1781 on the verso of the mount, but has been altered to read 1784 on the sheet itself; an almost identical view by 'Warwick' Smith is in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; repr. Williams 1952, pl. lxii, fig. 147).
The distant view, 'Tivoli from below the Falls', is smeared with finger and thumb prints all round the edges, and was obviously handled when wet. Despite the size and complexity of the composition, some of its colouring was presumably applied on the spot. The close-up view, on the other hand, was reworked several years later. 'At Tivoli above the Fall of the Anio' shows a different approach again: it makes up in vibrant colour what it lacks in recognisable topographical features, and is one of the most intense of all the Roman watercolours. Even though the particular, unique turn of phrase in the inscription, "drawn by Francis Towne on the Spot", could be taken to imply that the sheet was coloured later, this must have been with the experience of the place still flooding the mind's eye. The painting has an urgency and lack of restraint not only in the wet-on-wet giving a hazy softness to the distance but also in the highlights on the meadows beside the river which appear to have been painted in pure egg yolk.
The following label was written by Richard Stephens for the Towne exhibition in 2016:
This view of Tivoli was mounted in or after 1794, judging by its watermark, and was coloured late in Towne's life. The end of the 1780s coincided with a decline in the work Towne received from clients ordering copies of his Italian views. Towne sought to assert his continuing relevance to current aesthetic trends, and to sustain his business as a drawing master, by engaging with a new style of watercolour painting. In the 20th century, though, Towne's later watercolours were less fully appreciated than his unrevised work of 1780-1.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1997 June-Sept, London, Tate Gallery, Francis Towne
1997/8 Oct-Jan, Leeds CAG, 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 James White and J. H.Merivale, 1818
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1972,U.651