Neoclassicism and Romanticism


(Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map)




A Journey in the

Holy Land







... and the Encampment of the Oulad Said

This plate shows the arrival of the caravan in the encampment of the Oulad Said, friends of the Bern, Saul who escorted Roberts on his journey through the desert.
The tribe was encamped, in tents at the foot of Mount Serbal, a formation of red granite without a trace of vegetation. Roberts and his travelling companions were fascinated by the patriarchal welcome given them by the Arabs, who slaughtered a
kid in their honor. Roberts and his companions' trust in their hosts was bolstered by the fact that the liedoiiins of the tribe, had, since lime immemorial enjoyed the status of protectors of the Convent of Saint Catherine.



Fortress of Aqaba

Roberts reached the fortress of Aqaba, where he was received by the Governor, on the first of March. Situated at the extreme north end of the gulf of the same name on the Red Sea, the building as it stands today was built by the Egyptian Sultan Qansuh Ghoury in the 16th century on a square plan, with heavy towers at its corners. In Roberts' time it hosted a garrison of thirty; with its springs of pure drinking water, the fortress was also used as a storehouse providing supplies to pilgrims on the road to Mecca.



Petra. Ancient Watch-Tower

After having spent some days in Aqabu, where he alternated drawing with finding solutions to the problems caused by his failure to receive his letter of introduction to the Sheik of the Alloweens, Roberts arrived in Petra on 6 March. One of the first sights that appeared before his eyes as he came upon the city was the ancient watch-tower with its two sole rooms, standing on a massive rock looming over the desert.



Sight of Petra, South

Inhabited since 7000 BC, Petra, which in the Biblical story was the land of Edom, saw the flowering of the civilization of the Nabateans, a nomadic people who first established camp there in the 7th century BC and exploited the strategic position of
the site, a crossroads on the caravan routes along which were carried such goods as spices, silk and incense from China, India and Arabia. The Romans conquered Petra in 106 AD; the Arabs in the 7th century; the Christian Crusaders built a fortress in their turn. But the city was by that time already on the road to decline and its very existence was completely forgotten by the Europeans shortly afterwards. It was not until 1812 that the young Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt "discovered" Petra. On his travels through Jordan toward Cairo, Burckhardt, who knew the Arab language to perfection and even successfully
masqueraded as a Muslim, from India, heard many Arab legends about a hidden city in the impenetrable mountains, populated by Bedouins who were extremely distrustful of strangers. In order to gain access to the city without arousing undue diffidence, he expressed to his guide his desire to make a sacrifice at the tomb of the prophet Aaron - but upon his return to Europe he did not hesitate to make public his discovery of what has been called the rose-colored city of the desert.



Petra. Ruins of a Triumphal Arch

When Roberts made his journey, the discovery of Petra was still a recent event, and - differently from today - it was an extremely difficult undertaking for a European to visit the city: In his journal, the artist described Petra as an "extraordinary city ... situated in the midst of mountains and ... abounding in every vegetable production." hi order to enter it Roberts was forced, as visitors today still are, to ascend the Siq, the tortuous ravine cut by the Wadi Mousa torrent or perhaps opened by an earthquake, and to pass near the ruins of the triumphal arch erected in honor of the Emperor Hadrian on occasion of his visit to the city.





Pelra. Views of the Eastern End of the Valley

A goodly number of the buildings in Pelra are in truth great rupestrian sculptures. Since the era of the Nabateans, the particularly malleable rock of the surrounding mountains encouraged the inhabitants of the city to excavate rather than build up their temples and their homes. This architectural solution was simple only in appearance, however. Since the technique was such as to make it impossible to make major alterations as work progressed, the builders were forced to prepare detailed plans and lo follow them closely.
The Palace Tomb shown in these drawings (which confirm Roberts" fame as I he supreme "painter of architecture" of the English tradition) is perhaps the most monumental among Petra's rupestrian sculptures. The building, located in the area of the Royal Tombs, is laid out on three levels. While the lower one was entirely excavated into the living rock, the upper floors were in part built up using blocks of stone.
The particularly majestic appearance of the facade as seen from below relies on an optical effect that was carefully planned by the designer to increase the sense of perspective: each successive story was built to a lesser height than the one below it.
Some archaeologists believe that the edifice was built during Roman times in imitation of Emperor Nero's Colden House.



The Theater, Petra

The theater of Petra, begun by the Nalmleans in the 1st century AD but completed only by the Romans following the annexation of the kingdom to the Empire, is the only example of a Roman theatre entirely excavated into rock. The Latin architects had thirty-three hemicycles cut into the soft pink sandstone to give the complex a seating capacity of over seven thousand spectators. The building, "in a wonderful state of preservation," as Roberts' companion John G. Kinnear defined it in his own travel journal, was realized at the expense of pre-existing monuments, in most cases Nabatean tombs. The squared-off openings above the tiers of seats, clearly visible in the lithograph, are loculi that were re-opened with the precise aim of improving the acoustics of the theater and the rainwater drainage system.


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