Edward Lear, Pamvotis Lake


Edward Lear, Pamvotis Lake looking towards Aslan Pasha Mosque, Ioannina.
Watercolour and gouache over pencil. 16.5 x 26cm (6 1/2 x 10 1/4in).


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Edward Lear, Ponte della Maddalena


Edward Lear, Ponte delle Maddalena, Bagni di Lucca.
Signed with monogram (lower left). Watercolour. 16 x 25.5cm (6 5/16 x 10 1/16in).


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An Edward Lear Unpublished Alphabet

The alphabet had already been sold at a Christie’s auction in New York in 2005; it was made by Edward Lear between 27 February and 1 March 1858 for Ida Nea Shakespear (also see 2 March).

ida-ab-1 ida-ab-2 ida-ab-3

Sotheby’s catalogue entry for the sale in London on 4 June 2015:


folio (323 x 196mm.), written on blue paper with watermarks “Joynson” or crowned oval with Poseidon at centre, each sheet backed with contemporary linen, additional sheets at the end to form an album, containing three ink-wash sketches on two leaves of a duck and her young, a rabbit, and a goat and her young, and with six hand-coloured oval portrait etchings of children, these last sheets watermarked “Smith & Meynier Fiume”, contemporary half roan, marbled boards, quarter red morocco folding box, some slight spotting and occasional discoloration to some drawings, edges of binding worn, spine rubbed and partially defective.


Ida Nea Shakespear, signature on flyleaf; by descent to Dr. I. F. Bohm, sale at Sotheby’s London, 20 April 1971, lot 543, where purchased by John Fleming (a copy of letter from Sotheby’s to Fleming discussing the provenance is loosely inserted); Norman and Cynthia Armour Collection, their sale, Christie’s New York, 27 April 2005, lot 94


Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear 1812–1888, Royal Academy of Arts, 1985 (cf. 81a, b, c, and d, partial alphabets from the collections at the Houghton Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum)


ONE OF LEAR’S TYPICALLY DELIGHTFUL ‘NONSENSE ALPHABETS’, a number of which the author/artist composed for children up until 1870. Lear drew this particular alphabet during his stay in Corfu and presented it to Ida Nea Shakespear (Ida Nea’s name appears in highly speculative nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century accounts of the playwright’s descendants: see, for instance, Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, Shakespeare’s Family: a Record of the Ancestors and Descendants of William Shakespeare, 1901). The drawings and verses are similar to others which have appeared at auction and which Lear published. See, for example Christie’s, 29 May 1986, lot 203, and another one in these rooms on 22 July 1980, lot 401. Two printed examples can be found in Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets.

Lear visited Corfu on several occasions, first in 1848, moving there from Italy when the political situation became difficult. He set out on his next trip in November 1854, accompanied by his friend Franklin Lushington, who had recently been appointed judge at the Supreme Court of Justice in the Ionian Islands. His third trip to Corfu was over the winter of 1857. Other trips there were made in 1861, 1862, 1864 and 1877. According to Vivien Noakes, Lear made a number of these wonderful alphabets for children up to 1870 (Edward Lear 1812-1888, London, 1985, p. 173).
“Despite his loneliness…Lear was a sought-after and convivial companion, with a wide circle of acquaintance and many real friends who remained trusted and supportive…Children responded to his tall, shambling, bearded, bespectacled figure with warmth and happiness, and he treated them with humorous understanding and respect…” (Oxford DNB)

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Edward Lear, Porto Tre Scoglie, Albania


Edward Lear, Porto Tre Scoglie, Albania.
Oil on canvas. 13 x 20 ¾ in. (33 x 52.8 cm.)

This view was made by Lear in April 1857 on a short trip to Trescogli (modern Ksamili) to the north of Butrint in Albania. Lear sailed from Corfu where he had taken a house for the winter. Butrint was an ancient Greek and later Roman city, now under excavation. ‘We were off on the 2nd April in Lushington’s boat Midge – I taking George, the canteen or box of cooking things, my bed, paper for drawing, etc., & Edwards taking his servant, Fillipo (a Maltese). We had a perfectly quiet passage across of only 3 hours & anchored in the little harbour of Trescogli – enjoying all the afternoon on making drawings – below the tall white heath all in bloom – & comfortable dinner & quiet night’ (Edward Lear, The Corfu Years, Athens and Dedham, 1988, p. 108). The trip was taken with James Bevan Edwards (1834-1922), later a senior British army officer and politician, who was the son of Samuel Price Edwards, a keen patron of Lear’s whose collection of works included Corfu, from Ascension (1859, sold in these Rooms on 16 December 2015, lot 128), Petra, The Theatre (1859), Turin (1862) and Jerusalem (1862, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford).

Lear made his first expedition to Albania between September and November 1848, an area that few foreigners had ever explored. He found the area fascinating: ‘You have majestic cliff-girt shores; castle-crowned heights, and gloomy fortresses; palaces glittering with gilding and paint; mountain-passes such as you encounter in the snowy regions of Switzerland; deep bays, and blue seas with bright, calm isles, resting on the horizon; meadows and grassy knolls; convents and villages; olive-clothed slopes, and snow-capped mountain peaks; – and with all this a crowded variety of costume and pictorial incident such as bewilders and delights an artist at each step he takes’ (E. Lear, Journals of a Landscape Painter in Albania, London, 1851, pp. 4-5).

We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.


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Edward Lear, Mount Lebanon (1866)


Edward Lear, Mount Lebanon.
Signed with monogram (lower right). Oil on canvas, in the artist’s original frame. 15 ¼ x 27 5/8 in. (39 x 70 cm.) Painted in 1866.

Leaving Jerusalem in 1858, Lear travelled to Lebanon, arriving in Beirut on 11 May. ‘This place’ he wrote to his sister Ann on 14 May 1858, ‘is quite different from anything in southern Palestine – & reminds me more of Naples by its numerous villas & gardens, & the civil & gay people. I was only looking about me yesterday, but today I shall make a drawing of Mt. Lebanon, & the Bay & town – which are really lovely as a whole…’ A few weeks later, in a letter to his friend and patron Lady Waldegrave, he noted that that ‘all the Lebanon Country is safe & pleasant…the higher portions of Lebanon, i.e. the outer side – recall Etna’ (27 May 1858).

The horizontal layout of the painting is emphasised in Lear’s carefully considered composition, filled with an astounding depth of colour and light, with the rocky promontory looming out of the foreground leading the eye across the azure water to the city at the base of the luminous mountain.

We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.


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Edward Lear, View of the Citadel, Corfu


Edward Lear, View of the Citadel, Corfu, with an orange grove in the foreground.
Signed ‘E. Lear’ (lower right). Oil on canvas. 19 x 30 in. (48.3 x 76.2 cm.)

Lear first visited Corfu in 1848. He returned in the winter of 1855-6 and effectively made the island his home until 1864. The artist was obsessed by the island’s beauty from his first visit. In April 1848 he wrote: ‘This afternoon I have been wandering all about & nothing can be more lovely than the views; I never saw more enchanting. The extreme gardeny verdure, the fine olives, cypresses, almonds, & oranges, make the landscape so rich, & the Albanian mountains are wonderfully fine’. He could have been describing the view portrayed here, seen from the hillside above the village of Ascension, now Analypsis, with the Citadel of Corfu and the mountains of Albania seen in the distance. The village was Lear’s particular favourite, and the view from its environs was the subject of some fifteen pictures. As he wrote in a letter to his sister Ann on 25 December 1855 ‘Oh! If you had but seen the day here! Perfectly cloudless, warm & sunny, & with every orange & myrtle & olive tree alive with sunshine, & all the bright snow hills on the other side of the water pink & lilac & blue!’. It is probable that this picture was worked up from sketches executed in 1856-7. It is certainly datable to before 1861 when Lear started using his monogram.

We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.


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Edward Lear, In the Campagna (1844)


Edward Lear, In the Campagna, Rome.
Signed ‘Edwd Lear’ (lower left) and dated ‘1844’ (lower right). Oil on canvas. 9 ¾ x 18 1/8 in. (24.8 x 46 cm.)

The Roman Campagna was a place that Lear often returned to in the course of his travels having been captivated by ‘the long lines of acqueducts [sic] and tombs on the desolate and beautiful Campagna’ (E. Lear, Letter to his sister Ann, 14 December 1837). On a later visit he wrote that ‘there is a charm about this Campagna when it becomes all purple & gold, which it is difficult to tear one’s self from. Thus-climate & beauty of atmosphere regain their hold on the mind-pen & pencil’ (E. Lear, Letter to Ann, 27 March 1848).

A watercolour by Lear of the same view (including the small settlement to the right) is inscribed and dated ‘Campagna di Roma/Feby 17.1844’. It was in the collection of the banker John Scandrett Harford (1787-1866) and was passed down in his family until 2015 (now with Guy Peppiatt Fine Art).

We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.


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