Exterior of a Mosque (Gamia Sultan Hasan)

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Exterior of a Mosque (Gamia Sultan Hasan)
John Frederick Lewis lived in Cairo throughout the 1840s. Lewis was regarded as the preeminent British Orientalist painter after David Roberts, the first professional British artist to travel independently to the Middle East in the 1830s. Lewis based his work on firsthand observations like this. His work shows his strong fascination with contemporary Egyptian culture, rather than with the ancient remains. In Cairo, Lewis turned the narrow streets and confined spaces, about which so many other British Orientalist artists and tourists complained, into opportunities for skilful studies like this one. This study shows the entrance to the mosque, in Cairo, built by Sultan Hasan between 1356 and 1359. In it the eye ricochets through a sequence of receding planes.

Glossary Open


Orientalism in western art is the study and depiction of Near-Eastern societies, cultures, and peoples. It can also refer to the imitation of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists. Interest in the Orient flourished in the nineteenth century, and attracted painters from across Europe. This was partly aided by Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign, which had opened up the area and provided greater opportunities for travel. The Near East provided a rich array of subject matter for artists and was generally viewed as exotic; it allowed them to depict erotic scenes such as harems, but also led to a review of how biblical scenes were depicted. More artists began to interpret biblical stories with regard to their original setting.



  • Acc. No. D 3605
  • Medium Pencil over watercolour and bodyolour on brown paper
  • Size 81.30 x 55.90 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1911