22nd Mar, 2023 11:30

Spring Country House & Fine Interiors Auction

  Lot 607

David Roberts - A working sketch for Temple called El Khasne, Petra | watercolour

Sold for £7,000

Lot details

David Roberts RA RBA
A working sketch for "Temple called El Khasne, Petra",
inscribed 'Perta March 7th 1839',
32 x 25cms, framed

Provenance: label verso reading 'Presented to Sir William Strang, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., M.B.E. by King Abdullah of Transjordan on the occasion of Sir William Strang's visit to Amman on May 30th 1949'. Also with The Fine Art Society label dated April 1949. Sold by the family of Sir William Strang. For more items from the estate of Sir William Strang see lots 1044-1056 of this auction.

Notes: David Roberts, already a respected topographical artist, left London on 21st August 1838 and reached Alexandria on 24th September. His purpose was to travel the Near East, making drawings of the great sites of historical and religious interest. Roberts spent three months sailing up the Nile from Cairo as far as Nubia and Abu Simbel. Back in Cairo in January 1839, Roberts made the acquaintance of Mr J. Pell, and agreed to travel with him to Syria via Suez and Mount Sinai. They and a fellow Scot, John Kinnear, along with their servants, departed on 7 February.

After pausing a few days at St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, the party moved along the Gulf of Aqaba. At Aqaba they dined with the local sheikh, with whom they negotiated safe passage to Hebron via Petra and Mount Hor. Enduring sandstorms, bandits, illness, and physical hardships along the way, the group arrived in the village of Hebron, where they stayed with the only Christian family from 16-18 March 1839:

"On turning round the side of a hill, Hebron first bursts upon you. The situation is beautiful, and the houses, gleaming brightly in the noonday sun, reminded me of England...I made two coloured sketches of the town" (the artist's journal, as quoted in Ballantine, 1866, p.124).

Having learnt that Jerusalem was quarantined for plague, they made a detour via Beth Gebrin, the ancient Eleutheropolis, Gaza, Askelon, Ashdod, Jaffa, and Lod. They entered Jerusalem on Good Friday; the quarantine was removed that morning, and they were just in time for Easter celebrations. Accommodation was hard to come by, but luckily they met Elias, with whom they had stayed in Hebron, and he was able to find them lodgings. Continuing on through Galilee, Roberts stopped in Nazareth, Cana, and Acre, before reaching Baalbek in the Lebanon. By now ill, Roberts pressed on to Beirut. From there he began the long journey home, arriving in London in July of 1839.

Roberts's intent was to produce lithographs, based on his sketches, for sale to the public. Both his former publishers, Messrs. Finden, and John Murray, turned him down before Francis Graham Moon agreed to the project. Roberts produced a series of finished watercolours, including the present lot, which he had worked up from sketches made during his tour.


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Auction: Spring Country House & Fine Interiors Auction, 22nd Mar, 2023

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