Edward Lear, Jericho (1865)


Edward Lear, Jericho.
Signed with monogram, inscribed ‘JCS’ and dated ‘1865’ l.r. Watercolour and bodycolour. 17.7 x 25.2 cm. (7 x 10 in.)

Catherine Symonds, a gift from the artist;
By descent to H.J. Vaughan;
Christie’s London, 26 April 1963, lot 52.

This is a version, with minor variations, for instance the height of the trees on the right, of the finished work of the same size and medium on buff paper, formerly in the collections of John Addington Symonds, Dame Janet Vaughan and Miss W.W. Vaughan (sold at Sotheby’s London, 13 November 1980, lot 175), which is signed with Lear’s monogram and dated both ‘1858’ and ‘1862’. The first date presumably refers to the year of Lear’s visit to the Holy Land; he was at Jericho on 7 May 1858 after stopping in Jerusalem following his stay at Petra in late April (see V. Noakes, Edward Lear, 1812-1888, ex. cat., London, Royal Academy, 1985, p. 110, no. 25e).
We are not certain of the meaning of the inscription and date ‘JCS 1865’ on the present drawing. There is no evidence of Lear collaborating nor can there be any doubt that the watercolour is by Lear. The most plausible explanation is that Lear added the initials and date when he gave the watercolour to the Symonds, the initials are those of Mrs Symond’s whose first names were Janet Catherine, and the date, ‘1865’ is the year in which she gave birth to her daughter Janet. Lear had known Mrs Symonds since she herself had been a child and had been a regular visitor at her father’s house (Mr. Frederick North, MP for Hastings), so it is quite possible that he gave her this watercolour to mark the occasion of the birth of her first child. Catherine married the poet and author John Addington Symonds on 10 November 1864 and Janet was born on 22 October 1865. Why the family possessed two versions of the subject remains a matter for speculation, it is possible that the two watercolours were kept in different houses; due to the ill health of both Mr Symonds and his daughter Janet, the family lived abroad a great deal including a period when they rented Lear’s house the Villa Emily in San Remo, Italy. Lear remained a close friend of the Symonds family and his first and perhaps most famous nonsense song The Owl and the Pussycat, was written for Janet Symonds. For further information regarding Lear and Symonds, see P. Grosskurth, John Addington Symonds, London, 1964, pp.124, 126-7 and 199.
We are grateful to Vivien Noakes for her assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.


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