The watercolours and drawings that he made while there became the foundation of paintings that he exhibited after he returned to London. The present watercolour relates to two works: an oil, entitled A Turkish School in the Vicinity of Cairo, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1865 and a watercolour, of the same subject and date, which is now at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.1 There is another watercolour sketch linked to these works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.2
Lewis' intriguing title, which refers to a 'Turkish school', might reflect that Egypt, at that time, was nominally under the control of the Sultan of Turkey. When Lewis made his sketches, in the 1840s, there were still a number of Ottoman Turkish-speaking officials in Cairo, who presumably sent their children to such a school.
The present watercolour was once owned by Sir Thomas Devitt, 1st Bt., who was a ship-owner, a senior partner in the firm of Devitt and Moore, and a founder of the Nautical College, Pangbourne.
We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn and Charles Newton for their help when cataloguing this lot.
1. Victoria and Albert Museum (accession number: 68-1890)
2. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession number: 61.218.2)
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