William Marlow was apprenticed to Samuel Scott between 1754 and 1759. He travelled to France and Italy in 1765, apparently at the suggestion of Elizabeth, Duchess of Northumberland (d.1776), one of his most important patrons, according to an unidentified obituary notice of 14 January 1813 (see J. Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy 1701-1800, compiled from the Brinsley Ford Archive, New Haven and London, 1997). In Italy Marlow visited Venice, Florence, Rome, the Campagna and Naples and its environs, including Capri. He returned to England in 1766. Marlow does not actually seem to have painted in oil while he was abroad but made sketches, which he subsequently worked up into pen and ink compositional drawings, from which patrons were able to choose versions in oil or watercolor. He exhibited his first Italian subjects at the Society of Artists in 1767, and showed there regularly after that. Two paintings described as Views of Florence by Marlow were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1790 (nos. 192, 462), and four paintings entitled A view of Rome were exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769 (no. 92), 1775 (no. 166), 1777 (no. 59) and 1780 (no. 180). At the Royal Academy in 1788 a painting entitled Castel St. Angelo, etc., Rome by Marlow was exhibited.
Four other views of Rome seen from the Lungotevere are still extant (see Dorment, op. cit., pp. 219-21). They all differ slightly, however they all seem to be based on a pen and ink drawing by Marlow formerly in the Paul Oppé collection. There are also similarities between Marlow's composition and a 1754 engraving by Piranesi.
Despite having trained as a topographical artist, Marlow's paintings include charming details of the everyday life he observed while on the Continent -- such as figures crossing bridges or rowing boats on the Arno and Tiber, and animals grazing in front of the Castel Sant'Angelo.
A watercolor of a view of Rome with St. Peter's and the Castel Sant'Angelo, also from the collection of Christian B. Peper, is being sold in the Old Master & Early British Drawings & Watercolors sale (lot 33) on January 26.