Edward Lear, The Acropolis, Athens.
Pen and brown ink and watercolor, heightened with white on gray paper; inscribed, dated and numbered, lower right: athens – / 5.6. / 9 June. / 1848 / 9.
311 by 508 mm; 12 1/4 by 20 in.
With Agnew’s, London;
sale, London, Christie’s, 24 April 1996, lot 85
After spending only three weeks in Corfu, the island Lear claimed to be a ‘Paradise’ to his sister Ann, he was invited to join the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir Stratford Canning, and his wife, on their travels to Constantinople via Athens. Lear arrived in Athens in June 1849 and was instantly captivated by his surroundings, exclaiming to his sister ‘surely never was anything so magnificent…!’ He first visited the Acropolis on 4 June, but evidently made further visits during his time there, as is indicated by the dates on the present drawing. Lear illustrates the winding path down to the Acropolis, with numerous figures in the foreground. Standing in the centre of the view is the Frankish Tower, a fourteenth century addition to the Acropolis. In 1875, this tower was demolished, as part of a project initiated by Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890), a German pioneer in archaeology, who aimed to clear the Acropolis of post-Classical buildings. The project incited considerable criticism, and was even referred to as ‘pedantic barbarism’ by historian of Frankish Greece, William Miller.