'Between Daboad & Phila. 4.P.M. Feby 18. 1867.' (524)

This watercolour of a large Nile craft berthed on the river’s bank was taken by Edward Lear in the afternoon on 18 February 1867 during the artist’s third visit to Egypt. It could be the same vessel appearing in two other watercolours executed during the same month (PAD9105 and PAD9115) and might therefore be the ship he was travelling on.

By the time of his third visit to Egypt, Lear had established his individual style, which, despite its sense of detailed observation, mostly emphasizes sensitive colouring and rather swooping pencil lines. Lear tended to scribble notes onto the image clearly marking them as sketches, including descriptive comments on staffage figures or vegetation, but also on colour hues.

In this view Lear does specify the location as ‘Between Daboad and Philae’ and notes the time of day, thereby turning the watercolour into a visual journal record of his journey. In the background the scene is closed off by the mountain range on the other side of the Nile with a small group of palm trees in front of them. The mountains are depicted in various shades of violet with a stretch of yellow sand in front of them. The calm waters of the Nile are given a pale blue hue which corresponds to the cloudless sky above. A few figures can be seen on and around the colourfully decorated ship in the foreground, which seems to have come to a short stay on a longer journey along the river.

Although Lear worked in the tradition of British topographical art, his drawings leave behind its documentary attitude, which recorded landscape and geographical features for the benefit of their antiquarian and natural historical associations. If, as in the case of his Egyptian images, the past is alluded to, Lear conveys it with a mysterious and exotic character, rather than attempting to re-establish the historical and particularly biblical topography which had drawn other travellers to the Near and Middle East. It is mostly the colours in their own right which are intended to trigger poetical sentiment in the beholder and characterize the scene as picturesque.

In the watercolour the vessel signifies present life and activity, but with the beginnings of modern tourism in the region the artist’s emphasis on its traditional build also conveys the romanticized impression of timelessness, equating the ‘exotic’ and ‘oriental’ present with the distant past.

Object Details

ID: PAD9106
Collection: Fine art
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Lear, Edward
Places: Unlinked place
Date made: 18 Feb 1867
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Mount: 124 mm x 175 mm

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.