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Creator John Frederick Lewis, 1804–1876, British
Title A Frank Encampment in the Desert of Mount Sinai. 1842 - The Convent of St. Catherine in the Distance
Date 1856
Medium Watercolor, gouache and graphite on slightly textured, beige wove paper mounted on board
Dimensions Sheet: 26 1/4 x 53 1/2 inches (66.7 x 135.9 cm) Frame: 32 x 59 x 2 3/4 inches (81.3 x 149.9 x 7 cm)
Signed in pen and brown ink, lower right: "J.F. Lewis 1856"
Credit Line Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Accession Number B1977.14.143
Collection Prints and Drawings
Curatorial Comment After a decade of living and working in Cairo, John Frederick Lewis returned to London in 1851. He established himself as the preeminent interpreter of life in the East, painting genre scenes that played upon Western notions of Oriental luxury set amid bazaars, harems, desert landscapes, and mosques. He rendered each of these subjects in a style characterized by one contemporary critic as “marvelous in minute manipulation” (“Art Journal”, 1876, p. 176). Lewis's sharp style blurs boundaries in this meeting between East and West. A local term for anything European, the Frank of the Frank Encampment was Frederick William Robert Stewert, Viscount Castlereagh, author of “Diary of a Journey to Damascus” (1847). He left Cairo for Damascus in May 1842 and spent five days at Mount Sinai. Castlereagh commissioned a portrait of his party from Lewis, and although Lewis sketched some of the sitters before their departure (see Schoenherr, 2005, p. 107), it is unclear if “A Frank Encampment” was the picture commissioned in 1842 or if Lewis even observed the group at Mount Sinai. Castlereagh wears native dress and adopts a languid posture, recumbent amid a bevy of accoutrements-some “Eastern,” such as the hookah, some “Western,” such as tea, books, furniture, newspapers, and even a bottle of Harvey’s Sherry. In contrast, the local sheik Hussein of Gebel Tor (the Arabic name for Mount Sinai) stands erect, his serious, and perhaps dubious, expression directed towards the bloated lord whom he has agreed to guide across the desert. The monumental Monastery of St. Catherine in the distance serves as an appropriate backdrop for this encounter, a site of Christian pilgrimage and an active mosque. Emily Weeks observed in this work the “fragility of borders and the falseness of boundaries” that challenge the binary of East and West (Weeks, 2004, p. 240). Lewis exhibited the work at the Society of Painters in Water-Colours in 1856. When John Ruskin visited the exhibition, he singled out this work for his highest praise, “I have no hesitation in ranking it among the most wonderful pictures in the world” (Ruskin, “Works”, vol. 14, p. 74).
     -- Morna O'Neill, 2007-01
Link to This Record
People Represented or Subject • Sheikh Hussein of Gebel
• Stewart, Frederick William Robert, Viscount Castlereagh, later fourth Marquess of Londonderry (1805-1872)
Subject Terms birds | books | camels (mammals) | carpets | convent | desert | dogs (animals) | ducks | expedition | food | furniture | gazelle | genre subject | hunting | interpreter | map | men | monastery | newspaper | pilgrimage | rabbits | reclining | tea | tents | turbans | umbrella
Place Represented Africa | Egypt | Frontier | Janub Sina' | Mont-Sinaï | Saint Catherine's Monastery of Mount Sinai

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's legacy, a passion for British art : masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 295, no. 111, pl. 111, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977-1986, Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1986, p. 27, no. 102, N590.2 A7 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Richard Green Gallery Sales Catalogue: Sporting & British Paintings, Wednesday 12th November 2008, Richard Green Gallery, November 2008, p. 76, no. 24, DealerCat Richard Green Gallery

The Poetics and politics of place, Ottoman Istanbul and British Orientalism, Pera Museum, distributed by University of Washington Press, Istanbul Seattle, WA, 2011, pp. 251-52, fig. 17.6, ND1460 E95 P647 2011 + (YCBA)

Patrick Noon, A Princely Amateur, Paul Mellon and his Collection of British Drawings, Master Drawings, vol. 38, no. 3, Master Drawings Association, Inc., Fall, 2000, p. 343, fig.5, NC1 M37 (YCBA) , Another copy available as item VF 2329

Imogen Hart, Imogen Hart on John Frederick Lewis's A Frank Encampment,, August 8, 2011, 0 minutes 12 seconds, Available Online via YouTube , video

Nicholas Tromans, The lure of the East, British Orientalist painting, Tate Publishing, London, 2008, pp.53, 107-08, 118-19, 132-33, 215, fig. 101, N7429 .L87 2008 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Caroline Williams, John Frederick Lewis, "Reflections of Reality", Muqarnas, vol. 18, Brill, 2001, pp. 230. 231, fig. 4, V 2575 (YCBA) , Also available online : JSTOR. Stable URL:

Duncan Robinson, Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977 - 1986, , Burlington Magazine, vol. 128, October 1986, p. 27, no. 102, N1 B87 128:3 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Julie F. Codell, Transculturation in British art, 1770-1930, Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, Surrey, England ; Burlington, VT, 2012, pp. 64-68, 70, 71, color pl. 2, N6764 .T73 2012 (YCBA)

Douglas E. Schoenherr, British drawings from the National Gallery of Canada, National Library of Canada, Ottowa, 2005, p. 107, no. 40, fig. 83-84, NC228 .N27 2005 (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. 35-36, 128-150, 171 [n. 142], 211 [n. 3], 212 [ns. 5, 6, 7], 213 [n. 10] 214 [ns.27, 28, 29,] 215 [ns. 32, 33, 35, 36, 37], 216 pn. 41], 217 [ns. 52], 54, collr deail and figs. 97-107, NJ18.L5857 W437 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

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