David Roberts

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David Roberts
Cairo, Looking West
Watercolor and opaque watercolor, over graphite on paper.
13 1/2 x 21 1/4 inches (341 x 540 mm)
Purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund 1978.
Signed, at lower left, in watercolor, "David Roberts R.A.", and dated above, in graphite, "Cairo Jany 19th 1839"; at lower right, in a different hand, in graphite, "El Iuaq[...]".
The artist's studio sale, Christie's, London, 13 and 15 May 1865, lot 73; from whom acquired by Thomas Agnew and Sons Ltd., London; Sir John Pender (1816-1896), London, Glasgow, and Manchester, acquired in 1865; his estate sale, Christie's, London, 29 and 31 May 1987, lot 230; from whom acquired by Thomas Agnew and Sons Ltd., London; Rt. Hon. John Frederick Cheetham (1835-1916), Stalybridge; sale, Somerset, early 1950s; private collection, Somerset, from the 1950s; sale, Lawrence's of Crewkerne, Somerset, 17-0 October 2006, lot 1448; acquired from Andrew Clayton-Payne Ltd., London.

Pictures Drawings and Sculpture forming the Collection Sir John Pender GCM, MP, from 10 Arlington Street, SW & Foot's Bray Place, Kent. London, privately printed, 1894, no. 243.


Watermark: none.
During the 1830s, Roberts traveled in Europe and the Near East, seeking out exotic locations and subjects. He was one of the first British artists to go to Spain (1832-33), and the first artist to journey independently around Egypt, the Sinai, and the eastern Mediterranean (1838-39). The numerous sketches and watercolors he made during this journey provided him with an abundant cache of city views, figure studies, and architectural details to incorporate into oil paintings upon his return to Britain. Roberts executed this sweeping view of Cairo during his six-week stay in the city from December 1838 to January 1839. In his journal, he noted on 18 January: "Made three sketches of parts of the Town seen from the mounds outside the walls." The date inscribed on this watercolor indicates that he elaborated on his initial observations the following day, presumably rearranging the scene into a pleasing composition and adding color to organize the city in alternating bands of dark and light wash. Several monuments are clearly identifiable, such as the fourteenth-century Al-Aqsunqur Mosque (later known as the Blue Mosque) in the right foreground and the Pyramids in the far distance. Yet some details, such as the minaret of the Al-Aqsunqur, have been reararnged to retain the picturesque qualities of the composition. His views of Near Eastern landscapes, cities, and monuments were widely dispersed in a six-volume series of lithographic prints by Louis Haghe after his drawings, published as The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia by F. G. Moon between 1842 and 1849. (Andaleeb Banta)

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