Edward Lear, Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.
Signed with monogram l.l. Pencil and watercolour heightened with white. 17 by 37cm., 6¾ by 14½in.
After leaving Corfu by the spring of 1858, Lear visited Jerusalem. He arrived during Holy Week and immediately began exploring the countryside outside the city walls: ‘We crossed the Kidron & went up the Mount of Olives – every step bringing fresh beauty to the city uprising behind. At the top, by the Church of Ascension the view is wonderfully beautiful indeed’ (see Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, 1985, p.149). He was, however, reluctant to stay for long because of the Easter crowds, and soon left for Petra. He returned to the city on 20 April, and began working on a painting of Jerusalem at sunset from the Mount of Olives which Lady Waldegrave had commissioned. He also painted an oil of an almost identical viewpoint, but at sunrise. Lear spent almost a fortnight studying the view from the Mount of Olives and making a number of drawings which he used as the basis for later watercolours such as the present work. From his vantage point could be seen ‘the site of the temple & the 2 domes – and it shows the ravine of the valley of Jahosaphat, over which the city looks: -and Absalom’s pillar – (if so be it is his pillar – ), the village of Silouam, part of Aceldama, & Gethsemane are all included in the landscape. And besides this the sun, at sunset, catches the sides of the larger Eastern buildings, while all the upper part of the city is in shadow; – added to all which there is an unlimited foreground of figs, olives, & pomegranates, not to speak of goats, sheep, & human beings’ (see Lady Waldegrave, 27.V.58, manuscript, Somerset Record Office, Taunton). In 1865 Lear painted one of his most accomplished landscapes of the Holy Land, an oil of Jerusalem (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) depicting a similar vista from the north-east side of the Mount of Olives, with shepherds and their flock in the foreground.
The first owner of this watercolour was Alfred Manners Drummond (1829-1921), son of Andrew Robert Drummond and brother of the banker Edgar Atheling Drummond (1825-1893). Edgar Drummond and Lear became friends after they met in Rome in the winter of 1858. Lear often mentioned Edgar’s younger brother Captain Alfred Manners Drummond, in his correspondence, and as he was an adventurous traveller and art collector, he also became one of Lear’s patrons. The picture remained in his collection until his death when it passed to his niece Dorothy, the first wife of Sir David Scott. For more information on Lear’s friendship with the Drummonds, see Maldwin Drummond’s book After You, My Lear – In the Wake of Edward Lear in Italy.