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John Frederick Lewis, 1804–1876

Roman Pilgrims

Watercolor, gouache, gum and graphite on thick, moderately textured, cream wove paper mounted on board
Sheet: 21 7/8 × 30 1/8 inches (55.6 × 76.5 cm), Frame: 28 3/4 × 36 3/4 × 1 3/4 inches (73 × 93.3 × 4.4 cm)

Inscribed on verso in graphite, lower right: "J.F. Lewis"

Signed and dated in pen and blue ink lower left: "J.F. Lewis 1854";

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
books | bread | carpets | chair | children | church | columns | fabrics | feather | food | frescoes | interior | light | Madonna: i.e. Mary with the Christ-child | men | orange | peacock (bird) | pilgrims | saints | stained glass | tapestries | the Virgin Mary | windows | women
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

John Frederick Lewis traveled throughout Europe before spending the 1840s in Cairo. Returning to Britain in 1851, he exhibited dazzlingly detailed drawings such as this, which one critic called “the ne plus ultra of finish in watercolour art.” His subjects were far removed from Victorian Britain, usually scenes from Catholic Europe or the Muslim Near East (several of his orientalist paintings are shown nearby). Here, a shepherd from Abruzzo has come on pilgrimage to a Roman church and kneels devoutly with his tired wife and distracted children. Lewis represents Catholic devotions as essentially picturesque, reflecting the Protestant prejudice that Catholicism was suited only to the poor and uneducated. This subject betrays Victorian anxieties. In 1850, Pope Pius IX had restored Catholic bishops to England and Wales, an act greeted with indignation and anxiety by Protestants, especially when the brilliant Catholic convert John Henry Newman predicted boldly a “Second Spring” for Catholicism in England in 1851.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Catalogue of the art treasures of the United Kingdom : collected at Manchester in 1857., Bradbury and Evans, London, p. 196, no. 641, N5056 .M35 M25 1857 (YCBA) Also available in Hathitrust [YCBA]

The idea of Italy : photography and the British imagination, 1840-1900, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, p. 116, pl. 32, TR57 .I33 2022+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

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