This drawing was created on the spot in the early morning of 19th
January 1867. Lear shows the island of Philae, with the Ptolemaic Temple of Isis and the Kiosk of Trajan, surrounded by the calm waters of the Nile.
Philae occupied a special place in Lear's conscience. He first visited the region in 1857, when he spent ten days exploring the ancient site. In a letter home, he affectionately described it as being ‘more like a real fairy island than anything else I can compare it to.’1
When he returned in January 1867, he was equally excited, noting that ‘it is more beautiful than ever!’2
1. V. Noakes, Edward Lear – Selected Letters, Oxford 1988, p. 124
2. ibid., p. 216