Sunset on the Nile, near Saqqara by Elijah Walton, 1873
"Sunset on the Nile, near Saqqara" by Elijah Walton from Thomas George Bonney's Vignettes: Alpine and Eastern, 1873
This full-color image from a 19th century book on foreign travel is a view of Egypt's Nile River at sunset. Small boats travel across the water, while a seagull looks for food. The sun sinks down in the sky and a grand pyramid can be seen on the shore next to an abundance of palm trees. Located outside of Memphis, Saqqara is primarily a burial site for the dead, dotted by tombs and pyramids. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is there that the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser was constructed and still stands today. Although the area is historically significant as a landmark of the nation's ancient heritage, looters ransacked this site and others during the 2011 protests in Egypt. Here, Saqqara is seen as a place of exotic beauty from the eyes of a Westerner and Orientalist.
An Englishman, Thomas George Bonney spent most of his life working as a geologist in the Alpine region. An alum of Cambridge University, he also taught mathematics at the Westminster School. He taught geology at the University College London for over twenty years and served as the President of the Geological Society from 1884 to 1886. Prior to this, he had also been President of the Alpine Club. Throughout his life, he published a total of six scientific books and numerous articles. He lent his knowledge of both the environment and his own travels to the text of Vignettes: Alpine and Eastern, from which this image was created.
Elijah Walton was the artist who brought these places to life in his gorgeously colored prints. He was a British painter born in November 1832 during the heyday of Romanticism in Europe. Although he was a poor man, friends helped him financially so he could study art, and at eighteen he was admitted to the Royal Academy in London. His favorite subjects included the land and people of the Middle East, where he lived for over a decade, hopping between Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Greece and the Alps. He exhibited in the 1860s at the Royal Academy, including his 1865 oil on canvas The Tombs of the Sultans near Cairo, which is currently housed at the University of Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum. Other paintings of Walton's can be found at the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.
- Onastasia Youssef