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Plate 118 Convent of St Catherine, Mount Horeb - After David Roberts
  • Plate 118 Convent of St Catherine, Mount Horeb - After David Roberts

    This exceptional composition by Roberts is particularly rare in the RSE version. The artist reached the picturesque site on the 19th February 1839 and wrote in his journal that 'the convent is a large square enclosure, the walls flanking towers built of hewn granite. Inside, it looks like a small town, for beside the apartments and store-houses there is a chapel and a mosque. The former is said to be built on the site of the burning bush, the latter erected by Mahomet, who gave the monks a written protection from his followers. The Mahometans and Christians here perform their ablutions and go through their different forms of worship in perfect harmony, and this has, perhaps, preserved the place more than the prophet's letter of protection.' [1]


    Interestingly, 'in A.D. 726, the iconoclast Emperor Leo III ordered the destruction of all sacred images (in the Byzantine Empire), but the convent of St. Catherine, protected by its absolute isolation, was alone in conserving intact the enormous artistic patrimony. The tiny Christian diocese, still today the world's smallest, passed intact through the bloodiest years of the Crusades and over the ensuing centuries remained an oasis of peace and traquillity, periodically receiving the visit of one or another illustrious personality attracted by the allure of biblical places and the holy nature of the Church. Following Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, the Convent of St. Catherine was described widely in Europe, the beginning of a widening fame that has come down to the present day.' [2]


    The drawings and watercolours from this tour of the Holy Land and Egypt by David Roberts were collated together into lithographic folios and released over a seven year period (1842-1849) by the publisher F.G. Moon from 20 Threadneedle Street London. This lithograph is from the Royal Subscription Edition (1842-1849) which includes original hand-colouring from Louis Haghe's studio. There were only around 500 copies produced per lithograph in this edition.


    Medium: Original Royal Subscription Edition, hand-coloured lithograph on thin India paper.


    Full Plate 118.


    Inscribed l.l. 'Isle of Graia Gulf of akabah arabia Petraea Feb 27th 1839' and l.r. 'David Roberts R.A.', 47.7 x 31.6cm (lithograph size), mounted. Note, the inscriptions are partially hidden by the mount.




    [1] David Roberts' Egyptian and Holy Land Journal, 19th February 1839.


    [2] Fabio Bourbon (ed). Yesterday and Today: The Holy Land. Swan Hill Press: London, 1997, p.44. Translated by Antony Shugaar.


    Condition report: generally very good. There are a few small markings on the lithograph. This is particularly obvious in the top left-hand corner where a previous mount may have been present. Please see photographs.

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