ROBERTS, After David (1796-1864)
Fragments of the Great Colossi at Memnonium-Thebes
[London: Day & Son, 1842-1849]. Tinted lithograph by Louis Haghe, coloured by hand, mounted on card in imitation of a watercolour (as issued). Fine condition. Image size (including text): 13 5/8 x 19 7/8 inches. Sheet size: 15 3/4 x 23 inches.
A fine example from the deluxe issue of David Roberts' monumental works on the Middle East: 'The Holy Land' and 'Egypt & Nubia', considered the greatest lithographically illustrated works issued in the 19th century.
Roberts' masterpiece was issued in 41 parts over seven years in three states; tinted, tinted proof and in its finest form (as with the present image), coloured and mounted on card. It is beautifully lithographed by Louis Haghe, to whom Roberts paid tribute in glowing terms, `Haghe has not only surpassed himself, but all that has hitherto been done of a similar nature. He has rendered the views in a style clear, simple and unlaboured, with a masterly vigour and boldness which none but a painter like him could have transferred to stone'. Abbey regarded the work as `one of the most important and elaborate ventures of nineteenth-century publishing, and...the apotheosis of the tinted lithograph'.
David Roberts was born at Stockbridge near Edinburgh, and at the early age of 10 apprenticed to Gavin Buego, a house painter. He continued to work for Buego after his apprenticeship had been completed, carrying out work on imitation stone-work and paneling at Scone Palace and Abercairney Abbey. By 1818 Roberts had become assistant scene painter at the Pantheon theatre in Edinburgh, moving on to work in theatres in Glasgow and finally in late 1821 to Drury Lane theatre in London, where he worked with Clarkson Stanfield. Both artists exhibited at the Society of British Artists, Royal Academy and British Institution, and by 1830 Roberts was firmly established as a topographical artist and was able to give up his theatre work. In these early years he toured the continent and Scotland, and in 1832-33 visited Spain. In 1838 he made plans for his journey to the Near East, inspired by a love of artistic adventure; departing in August 1839 for Alexandria, he spent the remaining part of the year in Cairo, visiting the numerous tombs and sites. In February of the following year he set out to cross the desert for the Holy Land by way of Suez, Mount Sinai and Petra arriving in Gaza, and then on to Jerusalem, concluding his tour spending several months visiting the biblical sites of the Holy Land, and finally returning to England at the end of 1839. The drawings of his tour were submitted to F.G. Moon in 1840 who arranged to bring out a work illustrative of Scripture History, paying Roberts £ 3,000. for the copyright of the sketches, and for his labour in supervising Louis Haghe's lithography. Both the exhibition of his original watercolours and the subsequent published work were an immediate success and confirmed his reputation as an architectural and landscape artist of the highest order.
Abbey Travel I, 272 (plate #47).