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Plate 81 Baalbec (Baalbek), the Doorway - After David Roberts
  • Plate 81 Baalbec (Baalbek), the Doorway - After David Roberts

    David Roberts reached this ancient Temple on 7th May 1838 and wrote in his journal "This is, perhaps, the most elaborate work, as well as the most exquisite in its detail, of anything of its kind in the world. The pencil can convey but a faint idea of its beauty. One scroll alone, of acanthus leaves, with groups of children and panthers intertwined, might form a work of itself. Even independently of the beauty of the sculpture, and its excellent preservation, we are lost in wonder at the size of the stones, and at the nature of the machinery by which such masses were raised. Earthquakes have shaken this extraordinary remnant; but from the magnitude of the blocks which form the lintel, the central one, being wedge-shaped, has slipped only so far as to break away a portion of the blocks on either side, and thus remain suspended.


    "But its effect is injured by a wall which crosses the eastern Portico, and within a few feet of the doorway, so that the spectator is forced to look at it almost directly upwards. An eagle, with expanded wings, hovers in the centre of the lintel, bearing festoons of fruit and flowers. The fair proportions of this extraordinary work are injured below still more than above, by being buried ten or twelve feet in the ground, so that it necessarily looks stunted."


    The Temple depicted is dedicated to Bacchus and is part of the large Baalbek temple complex that is located in the Al-bibiqā (Bekaa Valley) in Lebanon. The whole complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 with the Temple of Bacchus being one of the best preserved Roman temple ruins. It was probably commissioned by Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (A.D. 138-161) with its ornamentation dating to around the second century A.D.


    The drawings and watercolours from this tour of the Holy Land and Egypt were collated together into folios and released over a seven year period by the publisher F.G. Moon from 20 Threadneedle Street London. This lithograph is from the Royal Subscription Edition (1842-1849) with only 500 copies produced per depiction. Louis Haghe (the Belgian engraver and friend of Roberts) worked on all of the lithographs for this series.


    Medium: Original Royal Subscription Edition, full-plate hand-coloured lithograph on thick woven paper. Stuck on to the original backing mount from the 1840s as shown in photos.


    Inscribed on lithograph l.l. 'Baalbec May 7th 1839', l.r. 'David Roberts RA', 50.1 x 34.6 cm (picture size), mounted.


    Full Plate 81.

    Condition report: small tears on the left hand-side and also right hand-side of the lithograph. Most of this is hidden by the mount except for a small area on the left which is obvious in the photos.

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