Ascent to the summit of Sinai Feby 20th 1839 / David Roberts, R.A.


Ascent to the summit of Sinai Feby 20th 1839 / David Roberts, R.A.



Painting drawn at Siqqat Sydina Musa along the Byzantine monastic and pilgrimage naqb to the summit of Gebel Musa (Biblical Mount Sinai) below the lower stone gate, looking southwest and showing the rock steps along the naqb and St. Stephen's Gate (Forgiveness, Shrive Gate or the lower gate). (Source: A. Shams, Sinai Peninsula Research, 2018)
Siqqat Sydina Musa is recognised as the traditional naqb followed by prophet Moses to the summit of Biblical Mount Sinai. The monks paved the path using 3,750 rock steps from Saint Catherine Monastery to the summit in 4th-7th centuries CE, in addition to mountain chapels and Byzantine monastic structures scattered across the valley and on the plateau of Biblical Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai, including ruined buildings (dwellings), hermit cells, prayer niches, rock-paved paths, rock inscriptions and agricultural plots (water dams, reservoirs & cisterns, conduits and retaining walls). The Byzantine monks, pilgrims and travellers (and later tourists) traversed the same route in the footsteps of Moses to the summit of Mount Sinai since 4th century CE, until the construction of Siqqat Abbas Basha in 1853-54 CE, by Abbas Helmi I the Khedive of Egypt (1849-54). Archbishop Porphyrios II (1904 -1926) restored the steps in 1905 CE. Several ancient monastic and pilgrimage routes lead to the plateau. St. Stephen (6th century CE) whose dressed skeleton is preserved in the "Ossuary or bone-house" under the chapel of St. Tryphon at the monastery's orchard, and the following monks, sat by the gate and shrived the pilgrims prior their arrival to the holy summit. (Source: A. Shams, Sinai Peninsula Research, 2018)
Illus. in: The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia / from drawings made on the spot by David Roberts ... ; lithographed by Louis Haghe. London : F.G. Moon, 1842-1845, v. 3, pts. 19-20, p. 3.
Surrogate reference copy available in: The Holy Land / David Roberts. Tel-Aviv, Israel : Terra Sancta Arts, 1982, v. 5, pl. 112, p. 34.
Tooley, no. 114

David Roberts, a Scottish painter, was born in 1796. His father was a poor shoemaker. From an early age, Roberts displayed a distinct artistic talent. Since age 10 he was apprenticed to a house-painter. In 1816, the young David joined a troupe of traveling pantomimists as a theatrical backdrop painter. Eventually, he got a position as a principal painter at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, following that by employment, in 1820-21, at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh and in 1823, the Drury Lane Theatre in London. Roberts made trips to Europe, sketching monuments and cathedrals with photographic precision. He turned these sketches into his first real “romantic travel” paintings exhibited and sold at ever-increasing prices. In 1830 he was elected president of the Society of British Artists. In 1832-1837 Roberts visited Burgos, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Cordova, Granada, Malaga, Gibraltar, Cadiz and Seville. In 1838 he sailed to Malta, the Greek Cycladian isles, and Egypt. In Cairo, after visiting the Pyramids of Geza, he wrote: “Not much struck with the size of the great one till I began the ascent, which is no joke. The Sphinx pleased me even more than the Pyramids... I cannot express my feelings on seeing these vast monuments.” Roberts left Cairo on 8 February 1839 to begin his trek to Palestine where Roberts drew sketches that would become some of the Holy Land’s most memorable plates. Roberts then went to Petra, that legendary rock-carved city. David Roberts travel lithographs were sketched in 1832-1840 and produced from 1842-49 by London publisher F.G. Moon. Hundreds of prints were made of each drawing from the lithographer’s original stone plate. David Roberts became a member of at least nine societies and academies. Roberts was at work upon a picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral, when he died suddenly at the age of sixty-eight, in 1864.





Haghe, Louis, 1806-1885, lithographer
Roberts, David, 1796-1864, artist




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