IDLE SPECULATIONS: David Roberts 1796 - 1864

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

David Roberts 1796 - 1864

David Roberts 1796 - 1864
View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives 1855
Oil on canvas
55(H) x 93(W)
The Government Art Collection, United Kingdom
David Roberts 1796 - 1864
Chapel of the Annunciation, Nazareth c. 1839
Watercolour and white heightening on paper
23.5(H) x 34(W)
The Government Art Collection, United Kingdom

David Roberts 1796 - 1864
Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives with Pilgrims Entering from the River Jordan 1842
Oil on canvas 84.1cm x 153cm
Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, Norfolk, England


David Roberts 1796 - 1864
St Katherine's Monastery with Mount Horeb 1839
Watercolour, over graphite 499mm x 352mm
The British Museum, London

Print made by Louis Haghe 1806 - 1885
After David Roberts 1796 - 1864
Caiphas looking towards Mount Carmel, April 24th 1839
Tinted lithograph with hand-colouring
610 x 425 mm
The British Museum, London



St Jerome wrote:
"The Greek historians are understood so much better when one has seen Athens, and the third book of Virgil [of the Aeneid] when one has sailed from Troad…to Sicily and from there to the mouth of the Tiber; and so one understands Holy Scripture better when one has seen with one’s own eyes Judea and contemplated the ruins of the ancient cities” (Praef.In Liber Paralip: PL29,423).

Roberts was the first professional artist to visit the Near East without a patron or a connection to a military expedition or missionary group.

He sailed to Alexandria in 1838 and for eleven months traveled up the Nile River, across deserts and mountains, through Egypt and the Holy Land, to arrive in Jerusalem on Easter 1839.

He continued north to Lebanon and departed from Beirut in May.

Roberts recorded his impressions of landscapes, temples, ruins, and people in three sketchbooks and more than 272 watercolours.

These sketches and paintings provided the basis for the 247 lithographs published with text between 1842 and 1849 as the three-volume "Holy Land."

The images were produced by Louis Haghe, the best and most prolific lithographer of the time.

Roberts's plates were among the most popular images of famous sites in the Near East.

John Ruskin wrote they make "true portraiture of scenes of historical and religious interest. They are faithful and laborious beyond any outlines from nature I have ever seen."

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