Balbec depicts a view of the gleaming ruins of Balbec in Syria; a few men in robes and turbans give a sense of scale to the immense wall and columns. Balbec (also spelled Baalbec) is a ruined city located 43 miles northwest of Damascus. The Greek named the city Heliopolis, “City of the Sun,” because of the famous ruins of the temple of the sun. Balbec’s other ancient remains include two other temples, columns, altars, and the vestiges of the city walls. Roberts visited Balbec May 2-8, 1839.
Sabaste, Ancient Samaria shows a view of turbaned men, some on horseback, at Sabaste in the Hills of Ephraim, the central region of present-day Israel. Sabaste was originally called Samaria and had been the capital of Israel during the Divided Kingdom. Samaria became the name for the entire northern region. Herod the Great (73-4 BCE) built the fortress of Sabaste over the ruins of Samaria on top of a mountain. He ordered the construction of an enormous colonnade of imported marble leading from the base of the mountain to the summit. Roberts dated this sketch April 17, 1839.
David Roberts was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He began his career as a house painter and by 1816 was painting stage scenery for the theatre. In 1820 he met Clarkson Stanfield, who encouraged him as an artist, and in 1821 he moved to London, where he worked with Stanfield on sets at the Drury Lane Theatre. Roberts exhibited at the first show held by the Society of British Artists, and was able to become a full-time fine art painter in 1830. During the early 1830s he began to produce the sketches of foreign lands that were to make him famous, beginning with Spain. In 1838 and 1839 he undertook an extensive and adventurous journey to Alexandria, Cairo and other places in the Middle East, making extensive sketches. In the 1840s, over a period of seven years, his lithographs were published in 41 parts in The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia. The works have proved to have lasting popularity and have been republished many times, most recently in 1989. Roberts also produced an illustrated work on Italy in the 1850s. His paintings are in many museum collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Louis Haghe was a Belgian-born painter, watercolorist and lithographer, who spent his career in England after arriving in London in 1823. In 1830, he and his partner William Day formed the successful lithography firm of Day & Haghe, where they were known for their advanced work in color lithography. In 1838 they were appointed lithographers to Queen Victoria. Haghe was also one of the founders of the New Society of Painters in Water-Colours and served several years as president. As a watercolorist, his principal subjects were rural landscapes and villages in the North of France and the Low Countries. His major works also include three volumes of lithographs based on sketches of Germany and Belgium, published in London between 1840 and 1850. During his long career he frequently exhibited his works in Paris and London. Today his watercolors are in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the art museums of Brussels, Leicester, Manchester and other cities.
Full publication information,Balbec: “Pub’d by F.G. Moon, 20 Threadneedle St., Aug’t 1st 1843.”
Full publication information,Sabaste, Ancient Samaria: “London, Published by F.G. Moon, 20 Threadneedle St. Sep’t 2nd 1844.”
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Professionally cleaned leaving only very faint line from former matting, can be re-matted out.
Abbey, J.R. Travel in Aquatint and Lithograph 1770-1860. San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 1991 (reprint of 1957 edition). 272, 385.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 4, p. 551.
“David Roberts.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/07/0724/T072403.asp (31 March 2003).
David Roberts’ Egypt and the Holy Land. London: The Schuster Gallery, 1987. Items 44, 63, 79.
Sim, Katharine. David Roberts R.A. 1796-1864, A Biography. London: Quartet, 1984.