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Plate 44 Sebaste, Ancient Samaria - After David Roberts RA
  • Plate 44 Sebaste, Ancient Samaria - After David Roberts RA

    Roberts noted in his journal on the 17th April 1839 that his group left 'Nablous in the afternoon, [and] in two hours and a half we came within sight of the ancient Samaria, now called Sebaste. The town has a noble and imposing appearance, and is surrounded by a fertile and richly-wooded country. The remains of a Christian convent overlook a beautiful valley, which might almost pass for a scene in England, and contrasts strongly with the bleak and desolate appearance of Jerusalem. We pitched our tents at the foot of the hill, and ascended and examined the convent, together with the vast field of columns, still surrounding two sides of the hill, on which stood the ancient palace of Herod. The convent has pointed arches, the ornamental details are similar to the early Norman. It has a nave and aisles with circular apse, and in the centre a sheik's tomb.' [1]


    The city of Sebaste 'was founded in 925 B.C. by King Omri of Israel; it became the third capital of the kingdom, after Shechem and Tirza. Samaria was attacked repeatedly by the Arameans, Assyrians, and then Persians; it was destroyed by Alexander the Great, and then again by John Hyracanus, and was subsequently rebuilt by Herod the Great, who named it Sebaste (i.e., Augusta, in honour of Octavian Augustus). Herod then handed the city over to the Romans. The modern town stands on teh eastern part of the hill, while the peak of the hill is occupied by an intriguing archeological zone, that was explored by American archeology teams as early as the first few decades of this century. It is possible to admire the remains of the palace of King Omri as well as the ruins of a truly splendid Roman forum, and - above all - the Church of St. John the Baptist built by the Crusaders on the foundations of a previously existing Byzantine temple. In the crypt of this church, the relics of John the Baptist and the prophets Elisha and Elijah were venerated.' [2]


    'In the drawing [depicted here by Roberts], one can clearly see the impressive colonnade of the palace of Herod, which orginally had the extent of three thousand feet; the function that this colonnade intended to serve is still the object of considerable speculation. Following a period of great splendour, Sebaste underwent a rapid decline in inverse proportion to the rise of nearby Nablus; by the Middle Ages, the city already lay in ruins.' [3] Roberts has romanticised the composition and displays the warm light of a sunset that he must have witnessed.


    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 44.


    Inscribed lower centre 'Sebaste ancient Samaria april 17th 1839' and l.r. 'David Roberts R.A.', 30.4 x 48.2cm, mounted.




    [1] David Roberts' Journal, 17th April 1839.


    [2] Fabio Bourbon (ed). Yesterday and Today: The Holy Land. Swan Hill Press: London, 1997, p.205. Translated by Antony Shugaar.


    [3] Ibid., p.205.


    Condition report: the colours are still very vibrant and the work is in generally good condition. There are a few foxing marks on the lithograph and a few small tears at the bottom of the picture. This is particularly obvious in the bottom right-hand corner. Please see photos.

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