Approach to Philae
In its original Edward Lear frame
Lady Ashburton and by descent in the family
London, Gooden & Fox, Edward Lear, 1968
This painting is in remarkable condition having been kept behind glass since Lear painted it. The painting was commissioned by Lady Ashburton , one of Lear’s patrons and it has remained in that family since it was painted.
Of all the Pharaonic temples and their scenery which Lear saw on his journey along the Nile in January and February 1854, it was Philae which impressed him the most. He wrote to his sister Ann on 7 February, 1854 ‘it is more like a real fairytale island than anything else that I can compare it to. It is very small and was formerly all covered with temples of which the ruins of 5 or 6 remain. The great temple of Isis is so extremely wonderful that no words can give the least idea of it’. A few days later he wrote again to Ann that Philae was ‘the most romantic....I shall never forget the ten comfortable days I passed in my chamber.
Lear was not alone in finding the island of Philae the most attractive of Egypt’s ancient sites. Its beauty was eulogised by many other tourists who visited it in the nineteenth century.