• A Spanish Woman -
    Price on request

    Watercolour and black chalk heightened with bodycolour

    34.5 by 17.8 cm., 13 ½ by 7 in.



    The Artist John Phillip (1817-1867), his sale, Christie's, 31st May 1867, lot 33;

    Mr Wyatt, Poole


    Lewis was in Spain from 1832 until 1834. This watercolour was in the collection of the artist John `Spanish’ Phillip, R.A. (1817-1867) who visited Spain three times in the 1850s and painted Spanish genre subjects. His figure studies are much influenced by Lewis.

  • Portrait of a European in Oriental Dress, possibly Sir John Gardner Wilkinson -
    Price on request

    Watercolour over pencil and black chalk heightened with bodycolour

    Sheet 37.3 by 27.3 cm., 14 ¾ by 10 ¾ in.


    This intriguing portrait of a European man in Oriental dress by John Frederick Lewis is likely to have been made during the artist’s decade-long sojourn in Egypt, 1841-51.  During this time, Lewis lived in a large wooden, Ottoman-style house, in a district of Cairo ‘far away’, according to William Thackeray, ‘from the haunts of European civilisation’.  While his attitude to the company of fellow Europeans was sometimes ambivalent, Lewis was frequently happy to mingle among the expatriate residents of the city, notably pioneers of Egyptian and Arab studies such as Edward William Lane, Henry Abbott and Joseph Bonomi. All of these, as well as Lewis himself, habitually dressed in traditional  Ottoman clothes, which were then still worn by many of the local inhabitants, though gradually being replaced by the Westernised dress decreed by the recent Tanzimat reforms. 

    Evidence also exists of Lewis’s encounters, both direct and indirect, with Sir John Gardner Wilkinson (1797-1875), who by the 1840s had gained fame and acclaim for his ground-breaking studies in Egyptology. During and after his 12 year sojourn in Egypt between 1821 and 1833, when he was based mainly at ancient Thebes (Luxor), Wilkinson published several articles and books on the subject. His most famous work was Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, published in 1837, which established him as the ‘Father of British Egyptology’.  Its description of ancient Egyptian society, with numerous illustrations, caught the popular imagination, and passed through many editions during the course of the 19th century.  In 1839 his achievements were recognised with a knighthood. He revisited Egypt another four times between 1841 and 1856.

    Wilkinson met Lewis at least twice during the first of these return trips. On 8 December 1841, he was among those gathered at Lewis’s house for a séance of the notorious Egyptian Magician, Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Maghrabi.  Later that month, a brief entry in Wilkinson’s Journal for 1841 reads: ‘Saty 18 Dec dined with Col. Barnet at 6. Met Mr Lewis and Mr Coste’ (The Griffith Institute, University of Oxford). The following year both Lewis and Wilkinson are listed as members (the latter an honorary one, as he had by then left Cairo) in a pamphlet published by the Literary Association of Egypt, newly established as a forum for those interested in Egyptian antiquities. Later in the decade, Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Egypt was published (1847) and in it Wilkinson, who was its author, writes of the drawings of Cairo, ‘this truly Eastern capital, which we may shortly hope to receive from the hand of Mr. Lewis’. Most pertinent of all is the evidence in a sale from Lewis’s studio held in 1855, a few years after his return from Egypt, in which lot 129 is ‘Sir Gardiner[sic] Wilkinson, in Oriental Costume’ (Christie’s, 5 July 1855, bought by the dealer, William Vokins). A portrait of ‘Sir G. Wilkinson’ is also listed in a letter of 14 April 1857 from Lewis to another dealer, John Scott (Private Collection).  Another similarly sized version of the portrait that is here identified as likely to be of Wilkinson, exists in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (WA.OA966), currently titled Study of a Seated Oriental Man, smoking. This is almost identical, but has the addition, lower right, of the brass nargile for the pipe that the man is smoking. 

    We are grateful to Briony Llewellyn and Charles Newton for their help in cataloguing this drawing. 

  • Bedouins Tents in the Desert, Egypt -

    Watercolour over pencil heightened with bodycolour on buff paper

    37.3 by 53.9 cm., 14 ? by 21 inches



    With Agnew?s, London;

    Private Collection, U.K.


    In 1840, Lewis travelled from London, via Italy, Greece and Turkey, to Cairo where he remained for the next ten years living as a local in an Ottoman house and dressing in Turkish costume. The sketches, such as the present drawing, which he made during this period gave him material for the rest of his life. Lewis often travelled into the desert to sketch the Bedouin people and their way of life. He liked the peace of the desert, the place where ?there were no crowds to jostle? (see Major-General Michael Lewis, John Frederick Lewis, R.A., 1978, p.23).


    A similarly sized drawing by Lewis of the same encampment is in Leeds City Art Gallery and a fully worked-up watercolour of a Bedouin encampment with similar tents is in the Yale Center for British Art (see Baskett and Snelgrove, English Drawings and Watercolors 1550-1850 in the Collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon, 1972, no.145, ill.).


  • A Franciscan Monk, Sorrento -

    Inscribed lower right: Sorrento/Aug 21

    Watercolour over pencil heightened with bodycolour

    39.5 by 27.3 cm., 15 ½ by 10 ¾ in.



    J.G.L. Goff


    Lewis left London in 1837 and went to Italy via Paris where he remained for two years.


    Dates on surviving watercolours by Lewis suggest he had arrived in Sorrento by 10th August 1839, was on Capri 12th to 14th and Procida 28th to 29th. The date of 21st August on the present work suggests he returned to Sorrento, on the mainland between Capri and Procida.


    The sitter is probably a Franciscan monk from the monastery of San Francesco in Sorrento.

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