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David Roberts (1796-1864)

A View in Cairo Signed and dated 1840

Oil on canvas | 91.3 x 69.9 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 403602

Billiard Room, Osborne House

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  • David Roberts travelled extensively throughout the Middle East during 1838/9, bringing back 272 drawings and three sketch books, enough material as he wrote to ‘serve me for the rest of my life’ (Eastern Journal, 28 January, 1839). This was one of his first paintings of the region to be exhibited. The location is the medieval Gate of Zuweyleh, one of the three main gates into the city of Cairo, with the towering minarets of the mosque of Sultan Mu’ayyad Shaykh, whose entrance lies on the right. Queen Victoria later purchased two more paintings by the artist as presents for her husband, The Bridge at Toledo (RCIN 405042) and The Fountain on the Prado, Madrid (RCIN 405005), and two drawings of similar subjects which are no longer in the Royal Collection.

    Roberts’ early career as a scenery painter at the Drury Lane Theatre is evident in his topographical paintings which, although largely accurate, evoke a romanticised atmosphere, with theatrical lighting and dramatic viewpoints. Despite the success and high prices commanded by his paintings, it is for his collection of lithographs, executed by Louis Haghe and published by subscription between 1842 and 1849 under the title, The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia that Roberts is now best known. This publication was dedicated to Queen Victoria.

    In 1851 Roberts recorded the opening of the Great Exhibition in a small oil painting which was purchased by the Queen as a present for Prince Albert (RCIN 405570). On the strength of this the artist was asked to paint a much larger and more detailed record (RCIN 407143) which was finally completed, following many alterations suggested by the Prince, in 1854.

    Text adapted from 'Victoria and Albert: Art & Love', London, 2010
    Provenance

    Purchased by Queen Victoria at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1840 (£105, Ballantyne 1866, pp. 142-3)

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    91.3 x 69.9 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    120.5 x 100.0 x 8.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    The Gate & Mosque of El Mutawellee, Grand Cairo, previously identified as