'Hebron' signed, dated and inscribed 'Hebron March 18th 1839/ David Roberts RA' (lower right) pencil and watercolour heightened with bodycolour 32 x 49cm (12 5/8 x 19 5/16in).
PROVENANCE: [Probably] Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere (1800-1857) His sale, Christie's, London, 2 April 1870, lot 54 Purchased from the above by Agnew's, London Purchased from the above by S. Lord John Hopkinson, Lord Mayor of Manchester 1882-1883 his son, Edward Hopkinson (1859-1922), electrical engineer and M.P. his daughter, Lady Chorley (née Katherine Hopkinson) (d.1985), author of Armies and the Art of Revolution and Manchester Made Them her daughter, the Hon. Gillian Theodora Marianne Goodwin (née Chorley) (d.2000) Thence by direct descent to the current owner
ENGRAVED: Louis Haghe, lithograph, for David Roberts, The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia, published by F.G. Moon, 20 Threadneedle St. London, Jan 2, 1843, (vol.II, pl.55)
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. The two sketches made at Hebron were among the contents of Roberts's studio sale at Christie's, 13-19 May 1865, lots 327 and 330, sold to the dealers Vokins and Agnew's respectively. Belgian engraver Louis Haghe produced a total of 248 lithographs based on this later series of watercolours, which were published monthly in sets of six, to form two series; The Holy Land (1842-5) and Egypt and Nubia (1846-9). These were a commercial success, and in 1855-6, Day & Son published the entire series of The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia together in six volumes.
We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: David Ballantine, Life of David Roberts RA, 1866 Helen Guiterman and Briony Llewellyn, David Roberts, Exhibition Catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, 1986