In July 1840 Lewis travelled to Constantinople via Albania, Corfu and Athens, returning to Cairo in 1841 where he remained for ten years. He was the first British artist to settle for such a sustained period in the Levant, but not the only artist there at the time; as David Wilkie (1785-1841), David Roberts (1796-1864) and William Müller (1812-1845) also all spent time there between 1838 and 1841, making sketches of the exotic sights to fascinate the Victorian population back in London.
On reaching Constantinople Lewis joined his friend Wilkie who commented in a letter to William Collins that 'We have encountered John Lewis from Greece and Smyrna...He has been making most clever drawings as usual' (M. Lewis, op. cit., p. 21). During this period Lewis executed many sketches of the people and landscapes in and around the Levant. The present drawing will have been one of the 'clever drawings', and it provides a fine example of Lewis's skill in capturing the character and lifestyle of the people he encountered. His limited use of colour, highlighting specific details of the figure and costume, is typical of Lewis's drawings, concentrating the focus on the centre of the composition while providing a basic outline of the sitter's surroundings. Other works from this period can be found in the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
For a drawing by Lewis of A Suliot warrior see lot 187.
We are grateful to Dr Emily M. Weeks and Briony Llewellyn for their help in preparing this catalogue entry.