Edward Lear, Karnak on the Nile

Edward Lear, Karnak on the Nile, Egypt.
Inscribed and dated ‘El Karnák/16. Feby. 7AM. 1854’ (lower left) and inscribed and dated again ‘El Karnak./16.Feby.1854./7.a.m.’ (lower right) and extensively inscribed with colour notes. Pencil, pen and brown ink and yellow and blue wash heightened with white on blue-grey paper. 8 3/8 x 13¾ in. (21.3 x 35 cm.).

The present drawing was executed during Lear’s second visit to Egypt and first trip up the Nile. The artist was in Cairo in December 1853. He left soon after Christmas in a large party of English people for a ten week journey to the First Cataract and back. Before departing he wrote to his sister promising ‘not to go into any pits, or caves; for I hate dust & mummies & dark holes’. He experienced terrible loneliness despite the company, but was excited by the landscape and wildlife, and spent ten happy days at Philae before starting the return journey on 8 February, reaching Luxor a week later. Guidebooks advised visitors arriving in Luxor to spend their first day at Karnak, and this appears to be what Lear did. The present drawing, which must have been one of the first he executed there, shows not the famous temple of Amun, but a view westward towards the Valley of the Kings. The temple appears in a drawing made on the following day, 17 February.


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