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John Frederick Lewis, 1804–1876

“And the Prayer of Faith Shall Save the Sick”

Former Title(s):

'And the prayer of faith shall save the sick,' (James 5:15) [1985, Cormack, YCBA Concise Catalogue]

“And the prayer of faith shall save the sick.--James v. 15. [1872, Royal Academy of Arts, London, exhibition catalogue]

Oil on panel
35 3/4 x 27 7/8 inches (90.8 x 70.8 cm)

Signed and dated in black paint, lower right: "J.F. Lewis. 1872."

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
Arabian | arch | bed | bowl | building | Christianity | costume | culture | customs | death | flowers (plants) | flowers (plants) | genre subject | ill | illness | illuminated manuscript | Islam | jug | light | man | manuscript (document genre) | mosaics | Orientalism | people | prayer | prayers | Qu'ran | reading | religious and mythological subject | religious texts | servants | shadows | sick | textiles | turban | vase | wall tile | women
Associated People:
Hathor, ancient Egypt goddess
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Painted twenty years after John Frederick Lewis returned to London after a decade in Cairo, this picture’s title is a quotation from the Epistle of St. James in the New Testament, yet the work apparently depicts a Muslim man reading from the Koran. The cross-cultural ambiguity is complicated further by the close resemblance of the reclining sick woman to Lewis’s wife, Marianne; furthermore, the cross-legged reader appears to be a self-portrait of the artist. A panel on the wall bears a relief of the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor, and above this is a quotation from the Koran: “We have embraced the faith, so forgive us.” Lewis’s paintings often point out convergences between the cultures of the Middle East and of Victorian Britain, and this sympathetic scene of Muslim piety, bearing a biblical title, may have reminded British viewers of the importance of understanding religious differences and challenging orientalist stereotypes. Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Having spent much of his career seeking to raise the status of watercolor, Lewis turned his attention to oils in the late 1850s on the advice of critic John Ruskin (1819-1900). Many of his subsequent compositions exist in both media, including this one. Initially exhibited at the Royal Academy without a title but accompanied by a Bible verse from the Epistle of James (5:15)-the title by which it is now known-this painting employs motifs recognizable from many of his Egyptian subjects.

Gallery label for Connections (Yale Center for British Art, 2011-05-26 - 2011-09-11)

J. F. Lewis lived in Cairo from 1841 to 1851, and in that period built up an archive of over six hundred sketches on which he drew for exotic, Levantine and, in this instance, biblical subject matter for the remaining twenty-five years of his career. The image of Near Eastern daily life that emerges from his enormously meticulous work, usually executed with fine sable brushes, is refined, poetic, and often deliberately ambiguous or unsettling, though unlike the work of his French Orientalist counterparts, Lewis’s paintings are rarely explicitly erotic. The Christian source, the Epistle of James which is addressed to all Jews scattered abroad, here elides conveniently with Lewis’s repertoire of orientalist models, setting, strong light, brilliant colors, textures, and paraphernalia, while the very subject of languishing illness was in any case both familiar and popular in mid- to High Victorian art.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2008

Lure of the East - British Orientalist Painting (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-02-07 - 2008-04-28) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Imaginative Geographies (Yale Center for British Art, 2006-02-01 - 2006-08-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Juxtapositions (Yale Center for British Art, 1997-11-19 - 1998-01-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Julie F. Codell, Victorian Artists' autograph replicas : auras, aesthetics, patronage and the art market, Taylor & Francis, Ltd, New York, p. 283, ND467 .V515 2020 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 146-147, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 1, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA) [YCBA]

The lure of the east : British Orientalist painting: wall labels, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2008, p. [44], V 2577 (YCBA) V 2577 [YCBA]

The lure of the East, British orientalist painting, 1830-1925 , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2008, p. 16, V 1879 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Nicholas Tromans, The lure of the East, British Orientalist painting , Tate Publishing, London, 2008, pp. 142, 216, fig. 122, N7429 .L87 2008 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Emily M. Weeks, Cultures crossed : John Frederick Lewis and the art of orientalism, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, 2014, pp. 86, 92m 93, 188 [n. 34], color detail and figs. 67 and 68., NJ18.L5857 W437 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

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