Posted 17 August 2022

Exhibitions & events News

Views of Jerusalem

A new display at Waddesdon brings together four works offering views of Jerusalem. On loan from a Rothschild Family collection, they form a remarkable record of the city and its principle buildings over 150 years. All were painted by Europeans, who had travelled to the Middle East and became fascinated by its topography, architecture and history.

Jerusalem was a magnet for artists, and three of the four of these are painted from the Mount of Olives, one of the most popular viewpoints with its biblical associations and uninterrupted vista of the sacred city, seen across the Kidron Valley.

The earliest view is the largest, by the Flemish-French artist Jean-Baptiste Vanmour, painted 1700-40, probably in Constantinople whilst he was in the retinue of the French Ambassador.

oil painting looking across looking towards Jerusalem
Jean-Baptiste Vanmour or Van Mour, View of the city of Jerusalem, Painted in Constantinople? 1700-40
oil on canvas

Next in date is a watercolour by one of the earliest and most important painters of the Ottoman Empire, the Italian-German Luigi Mayer (1755-1803). He travelled widely, producing panoramic paintings of ancient sites.

watercolour looking across looking across the Mount of Olives towards Jerusalem
Luigi Mayer, A view of the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, 1776-94
pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash, watercolour, gouache

Edward Lear (1812-1888) was responsible for the Mount of Olives at sunset, painted in 1859 following his first expedition to the city, commissioned by his patron, Lady Waldegrave. Lear was a seasoned traveller in the Middle East, but was unprepared for the emotional impact of the visit, describing how he had climbed “to the spot Christ must have been on when he saw the city” to find the best vantage point for the composition.

oil painting looking across looking across the Mount of Olives towards Jerusalem
Edward Lear, Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives at sunset, dated 1859
oil on canvas

The final work is a rare watercolour by an artist who deserves to be better known, William Simpson (1823-1899), who was sent to Egypt to record the visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales and the construction of the Suez Canal for the Illustrated London News in 1868. He extended his trip to Jerusalem, arriving in 1869, and was bowled over, making a number of sketches including this evocative composition, with its precise observations of the major landmarks in the city

William Simpson, Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, inscribed and dated 1869
graphite, watercolour and bodycolour


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