Edward Lear, Philae.
Signed with the monogram lower right; signed and dedicated on the stretcher Painted for Miss Clementina Macdonald Lockhart Edward Lear
oil on canvas
24 by 46cm., 9½ by 18¼in.
Lear’s oil paintings, with few exceptions, were derived from his rapid ‘on the spot’ pencil or pen sketches, and the present work relates closely to his watercolour of the same subject, dated 1867. Lear had first visited Philae thirteen years earlier, when he spent ten days exploring the island, setting up camp in the Temple of Isis. He developed a strong sense of attachment to the place and wrote: ‘The great Temple of Isis […] is so extremely wonderful that no words can give the least idea of it’ (Lear to his wife Ann, 7 February 1854, quoted in Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear Selected Letters, Oxford, 1988). As well as many watercolours, Lear painted at least twenty oils of Philae, often concentrating on its impressive setting rather than the ruins themselves.
The present oil is taken from a viewpoint on the rocky bank of the Nile to the west of the island. The focus is upon the foreground and the colours and rounded forms of the rocks are depicted in minute detail. The island takes a secondary role in the picture and the Ptolemaic Temple of Isis and the Kiosk of Trajan are dwarfed by the towering cliffs along the banks of the Nile.
Miss Clementina Macdonald Lockhart (a gift from the artist)
John, Lord D’Ayton; thence by descent to the present owners.