Edward Lear, Gebel Serbal (1849)

Edward Lear, Gebel Serbal, Egypt.
Pen and brown ink and watercolour over pencil; inscribed, lower right: Gebel Serbal / 30 Jany.1849 / 1 P.M., numbered, lower left: 179., and further inscribed with colour notes.  130 by 225 mm.

Sale, London, Sotheby’s, 16 July 1987, lot 205;
with Spink’s, London, by 1991;
by whom sold to John, Lord D’Ayton (1922-2003);
thence by descent to the present owners.

London, Sotheby’s, Edward Lear, An Exhibition of Works by Edward Lear from the D’Ayton International Collection, assembled by John D’Ayton, 2004, no. 17.

Lear made his first visit to Egypt in January 1849 and spent a week in Cairo before setting off on an expedition to Mount Sinai. He was accompanied by his friend John Cross, and together they travelled by camel along the overland route from Cairo to Suez. From there they followed the west coast of the Sinai Peninsula before turning inland towards the mountains. On the 20th January Lear caught his first glimpse of Gebel Serbal and recorded ‘the magnificence of the mountains…and…the great Gebel Serbal, which some supposed Mt. Sinai for no good reason that I can find’.1 On this occasion, however, Lear did not stop to sketch the mountains and instead, the party continued towards Mount Sinai. They reached St. Catherine’s Monastery on the 27th and spent three days there before Lear caught a cold and decided to turn back, leaving his friend to continue on to Palestine without him. He left on the 30th and began his return journey northwards, passing Gebel Serbal on the way and making the present drawing. By the time he reached Suez he had caught a fever and spent some time recovering before travelling back to Cairo and then on to Malta.

1. Ed. V. Noakes, Edward Lear Selected Letters, Oxford 1988, p. 104.

Also see.


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