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Details & Cataloguing

Old Master & British Works on Paper

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David Roberts, R.A.
EDINBURGH 1796 - 1864 LONDON
THE GATE OF BAB ZUWEYLEH, CAIRO
Watercolour over pencil, heightened with bodycolour;
signed lower left: David Roberts. R.A.; further inscribed lower right: Cairo Dec 28th / 1838
344 by 244 mm
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Provenance

Sale, London, Sotheby's, 22 March 1979, lot 22 (as The Principal Mosque at Bulak, bt. Danny);
sale, London, Christie's, 29 March 1983, lot 163; 
with Mathaf Gallery, London;
A Corporate Collection;
sale, London, Christie's, 2 April 1996, lot 99,
where acquired by Bernadette and William M.B. Berger, Denver, Colorado

Exhibited

London, Mathaf Gallery, 1983;
London, Barbican Art Gallery, David Roberts, 1986, no. 138

Catalogue Note

Roberts spent a total of almost six weeks in Cairo during his time in the Near East. He painted the present work on the 28th December 1838 shortly after returning from his expedition up the Nile. On that day, he made the following note in his journal ‘made two drawings of the gate of Bab Zuweyleh, with its minarets. I am still bewildered with the extraordinary picturesque streets and buildings of this most wonderful of all cities.' However, working conditions at street level were evidently difficult, as a few days later he wrote again ‘I have stood in the crowded streets… jostled and stared at until I came home quite sick, no one in looking over my sketches will ever think of the pain and trouble I have had to contend with in collecting them.’1

The Bab el-Metwalli, also known as Bab Zuweyleh, dates from the 11th century and is one of the ancient city’s gates. The twin minarets, that can be seen behind, are those of the Mosque of Sultan Mu’ayyad Shaykh. This drawing was not lithographed for Roberts' The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia; however it did prove an inspiration for an oil painting, dating to 1843, that is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn for her help when cataloguing this work.

1. H. Guiterman and B. Llewellyn, David Roberts, London 1987, p. 114

Old Master & British Works on Paper

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London