Francis Towne (Middlesex 1739-1816 London)
FROM THE ESTATE OF THE LATE SIR MARCUS WORSLEY (LOTS 34-38) The following five lots were all part of the collection formed by Sir William Worsley, 4th Bt. (1890-1973), one of the pre-eminent collectors of British watercolours, and of Francis Towne in particular, after the Second World War. Although he collected the leading British watercolourists such as Gainsborough and Rowlandson, Francis Towne was Worsley's first love, encountered while still a school boy, through two of his masters at Eton, Cyril Butterwick and C.R.N. Routh. Indeed the very first sheet that Worsley acquired in 1944, came from Butterwick's collection. When Worsley first became aware of Towne, the artist had fallen into obscurity and it was only through Paul Oppé's article in the Walpole Society in 1919-20 and the championing by a very small number of enlightened collectors, such as Sir William Worsley, that a reversal began during the second half of the 20th Century, culminating in Towne's recognition as one of the foremost talents in British watercolour. By January 1950 Worsley was able to provide 25 watercolours by Towne for an exhibition at York City Art Gallery, the first show of the artist's work to be held in a public gallery. Worsley was eventually to own 36 works by Towne, covering every period of his career, from early views in his native Devon, to his various extended tours, through Wales in 1777, Italy and Switzerland in 1780 and 1781 and the Lake District in 1786. These five drawings were part of the group of prized Italian drawings, which Towne executed during his seminal trip to Italy and Switzerland between 1780-1. Lots 33 and 37, Rome going out from Porta Pia looking towards the Sabine Mountains and A blasted pine in the gardens of the Villa Mondragone, Frascati, were included in Worsley's exhibition at York City Art Gallery in 1950. Despite being rivals in the collecting field, Oppé and Worsley were on friendly terms and maintained close contact. Their correspondence shows the two men's delight at every new discovery. It was Oppé who realised the importance of Towne's numbering of his drawings and Worsley must have taken enormous delight in being able to reunite groups of drawings from different sources. The three drawings of the Villa Adriana, Tivoli are such a case (Lots 34, 35, 36). All three were acquired in 1953: two had remained together and Worsley purchased them both from Agnew's, while the third he bought from the Squire Gallery. They are numbered 40, 41 and 42 respectively.
Francis Towne (Middlesex 1739-1816 London)

Rome, going out from Porta Pia looking towards the Sabine Mountains

Francis Towne (Middlesex 1739-1816 London)
Rome, going out from Porta Pia looking towards the Sabine Mountains
signed, inscribed and dated 'Rome Going from the Port of Pia looking towards the Sabine mountains drawn on the Spot 1781 Francis Towne delt' (on the verso) and with inscription '3 B.P.' (on the verso, in the hand of Paul Oppé)
pen and grey ink, blue and grey wash, watermark Strasburg Lily
8 x 10 in. (21.6 x 27.3 cm.)
J.H. Merivale, and thence by descent.
with Agnew's, London, where purchased by Sir William Worsley, November 1945 (65 gns), and thence by descent in the family.
A. Bury, Francis Towne: Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, London, 1962, p. 141.
W.A. Worsley, Early English Water-Colours at Hovingham Hall, Hovingham, 1963, no. 40.
York, City Art Gallery, Watercolours of Francis Towne, January 1950, no. 17.
Scarborough, Art Gallery, English Watercolours from Four Yorkshire Houses, June-July 1950, no. 10.
London, Arts Council, Three Centuries of British Water-colours and Drawings, 1951, no. 191.
Leeds, City Art Gallery, Exhibition of Early English Watercolours, 1958, no. 100.

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Hélène Rihal
Hélène Rihal

Lot Essay

Towne made two separate visits to Rome, the first in the autumn of 1780 and the second, when the present watercolour was made, in the spring of 1781, following his stay in Naples. During this second visit he sometimes revisited places which had captivated him on his first visit as evidenced by the present watercolour. There is also a watercolour showing the view north towards the Sabine Mountains from the Porta Pia, which is dated October 1780. In the present view, the severe classical structure is almost dwarfed by its natural surroundings and instead of being the focus of the watercolour is pushed to one side, its importance as one of the old gateways to Rome relegated. In fact the closed gates in the archway suggest that it was still in use, but no longer as a gateway to one of the most important cities in the world, but merely one leading to an estate.

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