Edward Lear and the Barrel-Orgon

I found this among my photographs, and the quality is really very bad. I don’t remember where I got it or how to date it except that it was drawn in a period when Lear was staying at 15, Stratford Place, London and that it was made for William Holman Hunt:

O Pa! the Barry-Lorgon has begun for to play.

The cartoon is remarkably similar to a George du Maurier strip from Punch, 13 March 1869, but by the time it was published Lear had already left the rooms at 15, Stratford Pl. (Diary, 15 September 1868) and from that moment, when in London he stayed at 8 or 10 Duchess St.

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Edward Lear, Valdoniello, Corsica

Edward Lear, Valdoniello, corsica.
Signed with monogram (lower left). Pencil and watercolour heightened with white on paper. 4 ¾ x 7 ¼ in. (12 x 18.5 cm.)

with The Fine Art Society, London, April 1963.
with Abbott & Holder, London, December 1989, where purchased for the present collection.


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Edward Lear, Castel San Niceto, Calabria

Edward Lear, Castel San Niceto, Calabria.
Signed with monogram (lower right) and inscribed ‘Castel San Nocito’ [sic] (lower left). Pencil and watercolour heightened with bodycolour on paper. 4 ¾ x 7 ¼ in. (12 x 18.5 cm.)

with The Fine Art Society, London, December 1947.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 29 April 1987, lot 192, where purchased for the present collection.


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Edward Lear, Rebus Letter

I am not entirely convinced by the solution proposed by the auctioneer is correct, also see Mary Beard’s article from her TLS blog.

Edward Lear, The Rebus Letter: I would be a great arse in writing should I not attempt to afford to catch the muse.
Dated ’23 August’. Pen and ink. 4 ¼ x 5 inches.

A rebus is a text that is presented as a combination of images and individual letters. The form may have originated in Egypt as early as 3400 BC, but was certainly popular in England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both in correspondence and as an entertainment. The present example by Edward Lear may be either the beginning of a letter or an element in a game. It spells out the following message: ‘I would be a great arse in/writing should I not attempt/to afford to catch the muse’. The use of the word ‘arse’ may seem out of character for such a writer as Lear. However, it does appear in his diaries, including the entry for 1 September 1867, when he relays the words of a German tutor spoken during a game of Charades: ‘it is Arse: for it says – let it be concealed – certainly I should always conceal my arse: nobody should show his arse’.

‘Chris Beetles Summer Show’, 2020, No 34.

Lear also wrote at least one “pictogram letter” to Hallam and Lionel Tenyson, Yale Alfred Tennyson Collection, Box 3, folder 161, published in Edward Lear, Selected Letters, ed. V. Noakes, p. 250:

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Edward Lear, Foliage

Edward Lear, Foliage.
Watercolour with pencil. 2 ¾ x 6 ¾ inches.

‘Chris Beetles Summer Show’, 2021, No 26.

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Two Paintings of the Campagna by Edward Lear

Edward Lear, The Campagna di Roma taken from Cervara.
Signed with monogram (lower left); signed, inscribed and dated ‘The Campagna di Roma taken from… of Cervara,/looking East to the Sabine Hills/Painted from drawings made on the spot in 1859, 1860; and completed by me for/ Walter Congreve Esq. in 1871/ Edward Lear/ San Remo’ (on a label on the reverse). Oil on canvas. 65 x 129.5cm (25 9/16 x 51in).

Commissioned directly from the artist by Walter Congreve Esq., San Remo.

Edward Lear, List of Pictures Painted, 1840-1877, no. 240, as: Campagna di Roma. Quarries of Cerbara.

The Elements- trees, clouds, &c.,-silence…seem to have far more part with me or I with them, than mankind.
(Edward Lear, 1862, quoted in Vivien Noakes, The Painter Edward Lear, 1991, p. 8)

Edward Lear travelled to Rome for the first time in December 1837, and he spent most of his time in the city until 1848, returning subsequently in the winters of 1859-60, 1871 and 1877. Each summer the artist would spend time exploring other parts of Italy. Lear started painting in oil in 1838. His compositions were mostly created in his studio starting from his travel sketchbooks, as per the present lots.
The artist was fascinated by the beauty and force of nature that led him to create the most poetic of views and landscapes. Rome and its surroundings acted as a great source of inspiration for Lear and lead him to the creation of his first travel book, Views in Rome and its environs, published in 1841.
The present lots were painted starting from sketches made by Lear on the spot in the tufa quarries of Cervara, east of Rome, during winter 1859-60. He wrote ‘there is a charm about this Campagna when it becomes all purple & gold, which it is difficult to tear one’s self from. Thus-climate & beauty of atmosphere regain their hold on the mind-pen & pencil'[1]
The present and subsequent lots were painted for Walter Congreve Esq., a friend and neighbour of Lear in San Remo, where the artist lived from 1870. Congreve sold Lear a plot adjacent to that of his Villa on which to build the first house the painter owned, Villa Emily. Congreve was the British Vice-Consul in San Remo from 1873 to 1885.
A watercolour by Lear of this same area was sold in these rooms in 2014 (Bonhams Knightsbridge, 9 September 2014, lot 31, see fig 1).

[1] Edward Lear, Letter to Ann, 27 March 1848.


Edward Lear, The Campagna di Roma.
Signed with monogram (lower left); further signed, inscribed and dated ‘The Campagna di Roma. Taken from the Quarries of Cerbara, looking/ South-East towards the Volscian Hills & Alban Mount./ Commenced by me from drawings made on the spot in 1859-1860 & completed/for Walter Congreve Esq. in 1871/ Edward Lear./ San Remo/ June 18.1871’ (on a label on the reverse). Oil on canvas. 65 x 129.5cm (25 9/16 x 51in).

Commissioned directly from the artist by Walter Congreve Esq., San Remo.

Edward Lear, List of pictures painted, 1840-1877, no. 241, as Campagna di Roma. Quarries of Cerbara.


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Edward Lear, Colonus (1849)

Edward Lear, Colonus.
Signed, inscribed with title and dated ‘April 8/49’. Pen ink and watercolour on tinted paper. 8 ¾ x 13 ½ inches.

Colonus (or Kolonos) was once an aristocratic municipality of ancient Attica, and is now a working-class suburb in north-west Athens. it was dedicated to the Equestrian Poseidon, and so is sometimes known as hippeios kolonos. the birthplace of the tragedian, Sophocles, in 496 BC, the area was also the setting of the third and last of his famous Theban plays, Oedipus at Colonus (which premiered in Athens in 401 BC, five years after Sophocles’ death). according to the play, and the mythology on which it was based, Oedipus was buried there. in the early nineteenth century, the leading German Classicist, Karl Otfried Müller (1797-1840), was similarly interred, while, almost 20 years later, his body was joined by the heart of the French archaeologist, Charles Lenormant (1802-1859). Monuments to both men still stand in what is now a local park.

The present drawing, by Edward Lear and Franklin Lushington, takes in the view southwest from Colonus, across the Saronic Gulf to Aegina and the coast of Argolis on the Peloponnese.

‘Chris Beetles Summer Show’, 2021, No 28.

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Edward Lear, Ferns

Edward Lear, Ferns.
Watercolour with oil and pencil. 5 x 7 ¾ inches.

‘Chris Beetles Summer Show’, 2021, No 24.

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Edward Lear, Camels Resting near Suez (1849)

Edward Lear, Camels Resting near Suez.
Inscribed ‘204’, ‘near Suez’, ‘1. Woolly – fawn colour’ and ‘2. Dowager – pale cream’, and dated ‘Feby 5 1849. 3-4 pm’. Pen and ink. 4 x 10 inches.

Andrew McIntosh Patrick;
Luke Gertler

Having been thinking about a trip to Egypt from early in 1848, Edward Lear arrived in Cairo in January 1849. There he met his old friend, the Reverend John Cross, who had offered to finance an expedition to Sinai and Palestine. They set out by camel on 13 January, and travelled along a route that can be charted through the many drawings that Lear made on the way, including those around Suez (15-17 January), of the wadis around Abu Zenima (20 January) and of Wadi Ferran (23 January).

Lear and Cross arrived at St Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, on 27 January 1849, and stayed there for three nights. However, during that time, Lear caught a cold, so they decided to turn back to Suez, and on their arrival, Lear was exhibiting signs of fever. They had ‘hoped to make Gaza, quarantine, and the Holy Land but, having stayed there for eight days … the weather turned bad and Lear suddenly became miserable and gave up. From Alexandria, he took ship for Malta’ (Peter Levi, Edward Lear: A Life, London: Tauris Parke paperbacks, 2013 (revised ed), page 121). He would eventually visit Palestine in spring 1858.

The present drawing was made outside Suez on 5 February 1849, near the end of the trip. It is likely to be at least one of five studies of camels produced on that day. Two others are in the collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University. The first, numbered ‘200’ and drawn at 10 am, focusses on a single camel which has been tethered by its front leg. The second, numbered ‘201’ and drawn at noon, comprises studies of six dead camels in various states of decomposition, one of which is being picked over by vultures. As
the present – far more charming – drawing was numbered ‘204’ and drawn between 3 and 4 pm, Lear must have made two further studies in the time in between noon and 3 pm, probably also of camels.

In a letter to his sister, Ann, written between 16 January and 3 February, Lear described his experience of the beasts of burden. He compared the enjoyable sensation of riding one to sitting ‘on a rocking chair’, but found them to be easily irritated, so that ‘If you try to make them go faster – they grown’, as he expressed in his punning spelling, and ‘if you stop them or try to go slower – they growl also’.

‘Chris Beetles Summer Show’, 2020, No 32.

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Edward Lear, Corpo di Cava & Vietri sul mare (1838)

We missed these nice pictures, early experiments in oil on paper by Lear, when preparing the Amalfi catalogue.

Edward Lear, Corpo di Cava.
Inscribed ‘Corpo di Cava’ and dated ’25 July 1838′. Pencil drawing of mother and child on reverse. Oil on paper. 5 ½ x 8 ¾ inches.

Early in 1837, a group of subscribers, led by the Earl of Derby and his cousin, Robert Hornby, commissioned Edward Lear to go to Rome to produce drawings (and, at the same time, to improve the state of his health). It would be his third trip to the Continent, but his first to Italy. He left England in July that year, and arrived in Rome in the December. Apart from two visits to England in 1841 and 1845-46, he then remained in Italy for a decade.
Each summer of that decade, Lear would travel to a different part of the country. In May 1838, he made a slow journey to Naples in the company of fellow artist, James Uwins. On their arrival, they found that they were staying in the same hotel – the Hotel de La Ville de Rome – as Samuel Palmer and his wife, Hannah, who were in the middle of their Italian honeymoon. However, Lear found Naples ‘all noise, horror – dirt, heat – & abomination’ (as he expressed in a letter to John Gould in the following year, on 17 October 1839). So, after a few days, he and Uwins moved on.

Travelling in a south-easterly direction, they settled at Corpo di Cava, a village situated at the head of a high wooded valley looking down to the Bay of Salerno. It had been the haunt of artists since the time
of Poussin and Rosa, and James Uwins’ uncle, Thomas Uwins RA, had painted there 10 years before, which may have prompted his and Lear’s visit. There they established a daily pattern of walking and sketching, punctuated by some longer expeditions, including that, in the middle of June, to the classical ruins of Paestum, which dominate the coastline about 30 miles south of Salerno.

Late in June, Lear and Uwins moved from Corpo di Cava to Amalfi, on the coast west of Salerno, and stayed for three weeks at the Albergo Cappucini, until 18 July. The visitors’ book reveals that they overlapped with Achille Vianelli and Ercole Gigante, two landscape painters of the School of Posillipo. It was following their return to Corpo di Cava in late July that Lear produced Collecting Water, Corpo di Cava. This shows Lear experimenting with oil – on paper – for the first time, sometimes purely and sometimes in conjunction with other, water-based media. His decade in Italy is defined in part by his decision to take seriously to oils. He and Uwins finally left Corpo di Cava at the beginning of August, in order to stay in Sorrento, on the southern extreme of the Bay of Naples. At the end of the month, they began their slow return to Rome.

‘Chris Beetles Summer Show’, 2020, No 29.

Edward Lear, Vietri sul mare.
Oil with watercolour and bodycolour.

Edward Lear, On the Road to Vietri sul mare.
Signed, inscribed “Vietra” and “13”, and dated “July 1838”. Pencil with bodycolour.

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