Interior of an Egyptian Temple
Topic: Subject or sitter

Does this view show the interior of the Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera? The form of the column capitals seems to be the same. Nineteenth-century prints and photographs of the site show that the entrance had not been completely excavated as with the blocked off alcove here on the left.

http://bit.ly/2zOYW8K

56 comments

Andrea Kollmann,

Google Maps provides several views of the temple's interior, this one https://tinyurl.com/y86mbq9l has nearly the same perspective as the painting. Even the incision in the left column of the entrance is still there!

Pat Marshall,

Here are two paintings of the Temple of Hathor c.1838,
I question that the one with faces is really one of David Roberts' paintings. the other Image 2105 is in my book of Roberts paintings and so is authentic,

That appears to answer the 'what and where', but can the question be extended to who might have painted it (not Roberts)? Probably someone who did more similar....

Jen Farren,

I will throw in a suggestion of Walter Tynsdale; the attached contains a possible exhibition of the work and a possible account of painting it with illustration. The book mentioned only has one colour plate but the original book allegedly has 60 which might include this work if it was one of his.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Tyndale (no 's') is an interesting suggestion, Jen, and at first glance looks promising; however our work is an oil, and according to Christopher Wood, after taking up watercolours c.1890 Tyndale "never again used oils". Certainly all the Egyptian scenes that illustrate the two books you reference are in watercolour, and our painting (or even a w/c version of it) is not among them. The books (with all the plates, I think) can be viewed online here http://bit.ly/2Cf9tvT and here http://bit.ly/2AE8iZu . The great majority, too, are signed.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, Christopher Wood's statement (in 'Victorian Painters') is confirmed by a piece about Tyndale in Vol 38 of 'The Studio' (#162 Sept 1906). In 1889 the artist moved to Haslemere (checked in Electoral Registers), and not long afterwards a misunderstanding with a painting pupil forced him to try watercolours for the first time. He postponed the classes, sought advice from a friend, and "the next day he invested in a new outfit, and with one exception has never touched oils since". See: http://bit.ly/2AZ3laJ

As Tyndale's Egyptian visits seem only to have begun in the mid or late 1890s, I think we have to rule him out.

Osmund Bullock,

I've no idea what that photo of Bendor and Emma Dabiri is doing at the bottom of my last post - I certainly didn't attach it (or anything else, as far as I remember).

Edward?

Edward Stone,

Not sure what that was doing there, either! I've removed it now, Osmund.

Edward Stone,

This discussion is now linked to the British 19th C, except portraits group.

Al Brown,

Is it certain this is an oil on canvas? Looking at it again, the surface has a very even texture and, though this may be due to the photo, seems to have little in the way of impasto. It has something of the appearance of a coloured print attached to canvas.

Al Brown,

Thank you for that. It alays the suspicions I had.

I think we can confirm Al Brown's identification of the temple as the Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. I am afraid that in the absence of documentary evidence (labels, provenence, etc.) the artist is unlikely to be identified. It is not a particularly high quality painting and hundreds, if not thousands, of amateur artists visited Egypt from the 19th century.

Manto Psarelli,

Thank you all for your contributions. I am happy to recommend that we close this now as all evidence suggests that the Egyptian temple is the Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. Art UK, I agree with Andrew's comment that the artist is unlikely to be identified and unless anyone has any evidence to suggest otherwise if you are happy, the record can be updated with the aforementioned location without artist attribution.

S. Elin Jones,

I realise that this has been up for quite a while, but is it possible that it could stay up for a few days more please?
Thanks very much

Manto, thank you for posting this to the top of the list today. I'm sorry for the delay. I see that Andrew made his recommendation while I was ill with the virus and this is the first time I've seen it. I haven't caught up on everything that happened in those two months.

E. Jones, many thanks for offering more information. A few more days will be fine.

Manto Psarelli,

Hello Marion - I am very sorry to hear you were ill and delighted to learn that you are recovered and can resume work.

Thank you for agreeing to keep the discussion live for a few more days; I will monitor accordingly.

E.Jones, I echo Marion's comment, looking forward to hearing more soon.

S. Elin Jones,

As the subject has now been identified in the discussion as the Temple of Hathor (Dendera, Denderah or Tentyris), could it now be possible for the collection to be able to the source a reference/accession record using the new information?

Is it also possible that there could also be a slightly different avenue of research concerning this painting?

The Bolton Corporation established a museum of natural history called the ‘Chadwick Museum’ in the 1880’s.

The funding for it’s creation was donated in the 1870’s by a gentleman called Samuel Taylor Chadwick in his bequest to the authority. Due to an attached caveat, there was a strict time limit for the construction to be completed.

The museum, from very early on, had an association with the Egyptian Exploration Fund through it’s subscription scheme. The Curator William Midgley had a particular interest in ancient textiles and the collection was also supported by the efforts of Annie Barlow. Annie Barlow was the daughter of a local cotton mill owner who had a passion for Ancient Egypt. Ms Barlow was also the local secretary for the Egyptian Exploration Fund in Bolton. She also donated her share of her own subscription to the museum.

https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/17410823.legacy-boltons-victorian-queen-egypt-annie-barlow/

The subscriptions with the EEF helped fund various excavations in Egypt. In return, they received a share of the artefacts. They received items as early as 1884. Through this process they gradually developed a significant collection of Egyptian artefacts.

Today, the museum has one of the largest collection of Egyptian artefacts in public ownership in Britain. There is over 12,000 pieces.

The records of the EEF, list the Chadwick museum as having received items from Dendera, including Hathor heads from a variety of locations. There are also decades worth of letters in the records of the EEF between the Curators of the Bolton Museum and Flinders Petrie.

https://www.boltonlams.co.uk/boltonlams/homepage/21/results?keywords=hathor&category_id=10

The attached floorplan of the Temple is from 1902 and I think that the painting may be the entranceway of the Temple in the ‘Pronaos’ area rather than the inner ‘Hypostyle hall’, although many of the more current floorplans seem to reference that area as the ‘Outer Hypostyle Hall’.

*Is there anything on the back of this painting?

*Could the painting have been separated from the Egyptian collection, when both collections were merged due to the planned demolition in the 1950’s of ‘The Chadwick?

*Do the museum have a record as to the items that that were moved from ‘The Chadwick’?

*When was the entrance in the Portico bricked up?
and when was it re-opened?
The entranceway appears to be shown in paintings, prints and photographs of the early 1800’s to being fully accessible before being bricked up and the exterior level raised, hiding the majority of the outer walls. This, I think is the brickwork that is visible on the left in the painting.

*Could it be that this painting was not a piece of work that was meant to be a judged for it’s aesthetic merits, rather than it’s illustrative or educational qualities?
The main focus of the the piece appears not to be the technique, but the temple. Perhaps it was ultimately used for these qualities in support of the collection?

*Are there any more illustrations/paintings of Egyptian subjects within the Egyptian collection at Bolton Museum?

2 attachments
Ian Trumble,

I believe this to be a painting by pre-Raphaelite painter John Collier (1850-1934).

An touring exhibition of Collier's work was held at the Mere Hall Art Gallery in Bolton in the 1920s. After this exhibition the curators of the Chadwick Museum purchased a 'painting by John Collier of the entrance to the Temple of Hathor at Dendera to compliment the displays of Egyptology in the museum'.... I need to check this exactly date-wise when i can get access to the museum's archive again.

After the same touring exhibition, Oldham Art Gallery purchased the large painting of the Death of Cleopatra.

If anyone were able to confirm that this could be by Collier's hand i'd be very interested to hear.

Ian Trumble
Curator of Egyptology
Bolton Library and Museum Services

Collier's Wiki entry notes an interesting comment by the late Geoffrey Ashton (who catalogued the Garrick Club collection among other things) about Collier's notably flat use of paint and invisible brush strokes, which might apply here. Though primarily a painter of portraits and historical figure pieces he was not slavishly so: if the 'Theban Hills from Luxor' was not known to be by him he would not be first guess for it, which also applies in the present case, but he seems to have been there which is promising. He was also taught at the Slade by Poynter (who did some notable Egyptian architectural pieces) and influenced by Alma-Tadema, to whom his father introduced him, so having a stab at Dendera would not be that much of a surprise. Though often very colourful, he was also good at tonal work - which is rather the case here - often in the greys, ochres and browns. The only portrait of his I've seen a lot of, and which demonstrates the point, is that of Sir George Biddell Airy, 7th Astronomer Royal (dressed in his old warm observing coat):

https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/sir-george-biddell-airy-18011892-173309/view_as/grid/search/works:sir-george-biddell-airy-18011892/page/1

That apart, I fear the proof here is more likely to be in whatever documentation can be found: similar Egyptian architecture studies by him don't seem to have obviously hit the web, at least.

I have asked the collection for their help in answering the new questions posed on the discussion. Our contact is out of the office until next week.

Elin, I have followed up again with the Collection on your questions at the same time as working with them on a summary of submissions. They were busy with reopening displays over the Summer, hopefully now an easier period. David

Ian Trumble,

Many thanks to Marion for getting in touch with us, and to Elin for the questions. Here is some answers i am able to offer:


*Is there anything on the back of this painting?

There is sadly nothing on the back of this painting, which is an oil on board, not on canvas.


*Could the painting have been separated from the Egyptian collection, when both collections were merged due to the planned demolition in the 1950’s of ‘The Chadwick?

The painting was indeed separated from the Egyptian Collection, presumably around that point. The art collection moved to the new museum in the 1950s, but the Egyptian collection didn't move there until the 1960s.


*Do the museum have a record as to the items that that were moved from ‘The Chadwick’?

Sadly we don't have a list of specific objects that were moved. We have our accession register for the items that were in the Chadwick, and we can cross reference this with what is in the museum collections now.


*When was the entrance in the Portico bricked up?
and when was it re-opened?
The entranceway appears to be shown in paintings, prints and photographs of the early 1800’s to being fully accessible before being bricked up and the exterior level raised, hiding the majority of the outer walls. This, I think is the brickwork that is visible on the left in the painting.

The exterior, and some of the interior, of the Hathor Temple Pronaos were covered by a Greco-Roman settlement that abutted the temple. This is part of the mud-brickwork that can be seen on the painting. The town was excavated and removed from the 1840s to the 1920s. Looking at various photographs and images, the view in this painting would date to about 1900-1930. I don't have a reference to the exact date the final mud bricks were removed from the entrance, just that the clearance was completed by 1930.
Collier died in 1934, and i'm unsure whether or not he actually visited Egypt, but given this painting was painted prior to the exhibition at Mere Hall Art Gallery in the 1920s, this would support the 1900-1920 timeframe for this view.


*Could it be that this painting was not a piece of work that was meant to be a judged for it’s aesthetic merits, rather than it’s illustrative or educational qualities?
The main focus of the the piece appears not to be the technique, but the temple. Perhaps it was ultimately used for these qualities in support of the collection?

Exactly right Elin. Thomas Midgley purchased the painting from Collier in the 1920's specifically to illustrate the site at Dendera, and the collection of Hathor material, that was excavated by the Egypt Exploration Society in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. I have found a report to the council in which Midgley states this is the reason for purchase. However, the painting was not commissioned for educational display, and was actually part of a temporary exhibition of Collier's work, so any debate over the aesthetic and artistic qualities, I think, are subjective.


*Are there any more illustrations/paintings of Egyptian subjects within the Egyptian collection at Bolton Museum?

There are several paintings and prints in the collection. I don't currently have access to our digital database, but i can supply a list at a later date if anyone is interested.


I hope this is helpful to Elin and others that are interested in this painting.

Best wishes,
Ian


Ian Trumble
Curator of Archaeology, Egyptology and World Cultures
Bolton Library and Museum Services

The last few postings (starting from S. Elin Jones, 10/02/2021 15:38) seem to resolve this matter, suggesting that a suitably revised title would be 'The entrance portico to the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, Upper Egypt' and the artist confirmed as the Hon. John Collier, 1850-1934.

Given that a dated 1920 view by Collier of the Theban hills has also been spotted, other circumstances cited above indicate a date bracket of c.1900-1920 - unless anyone can be more specific on when he visited Egypt.

Osmund Bullock,

Collier visited Egypt at least twice, in c.1889 and in 1920, and certainly painted in Upper Egypt during the first one.

In the spring/summer of 1890 he exhibited a huge work, ‘The Death of Cleopatra’ (https://tinyurl.com/kk3rvbx2), at the RA, and according to a 1903 interview with him in The Sketch, “before painting it, he went to Egypt to make studies, the chief of which were done in the great temple at Philae”; and other details were said to derive from the Temple at Dendera. I’m attaching the full article - though most of it is not strictly relevant to our purpose, it’s all quite interesting. It seems quite likely that the trip up the Nile followed on from a visit with his (second) wife to Venice in April 1889, soon after they were married – late C19th Bradshaw’s guides show there was a fast and frequent steamship service from Venice to Alexandria via Trieste, and I imagine many tourists with sufficient time and money made combined tours of the two countries.

As well as using the studies to provide more authentic background detail, it’s clear from press reports of exhibitions (two attached, from 1915 & 1923) that Collier worked some of them up into finished landscape paintings in subsequent years. It’s possible, therefore, that both our painting and the 1920 view of the Theban Hills from Luxor were based on those much earlier sketches. However, I did find brief mention (attached) of a further possible trip to Egypt with his wife in early 1920, though it could have been just a brief stop-off on the way back from somewhere further afield (the report is unclear). And of course there’s nothing to say that in the 30 intervening years there wasn’t another painting trip there that went unreported.

Thanks for digging out those details Osmund: good to see the contemporary comment about him too. Perhaps it will be better for Ian at Bolton to confirm whether he thinks 'c.1900 - c.1920' or 'c.1890-c.1920' is preferable dating for the picture, based on what is known of the state of the site.

Thanks to all, especially S. Elin Jones, Ian Trumble and Osmund for making a convincing case for this being by John Collier (1850-1934) and probably the painting purchased by the Chadwick Museum in the 1920s and later transferred to Bolton. Peter's title suggestion of 'The entrance portico to the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, Upper Egypt' is perfect, and we can propose a date of c.1900-20, unless more precise information is forhcoming from Ian Trumble.

Osmund Bullock,

The 1923 Sheffield exhibition seems to have been one of many venues that hosted what must have been a travelling exhibition of Collier's work "lent by the artist, the National Gallery, and others" in 1921-25. The National Art Library has catalogues for two more of those - Sunderland in 1921-22 & Cheltenham 1924 - and also for the show of his landscapes at the Leicester Galleries (Ernest Brown & Phillips) in July 1915.

I should be able to get to the NAL this week: is it worth delaying closure in case comparable Upper Egypt works are mentioned...or even, conceivably, our work?

EDIT: Sorry, I'm being dense. I've just realised that Ian Trumble mentioned the "touring exhibition of Collier's work" that was held at the Mere Hall Art Gallery in Bolton in the 1920s (from which Thomas Midgley purchased the work), and that was obviously another of the dates on the same tour as those at Sheffield, Sunderland and Cheltenham. There were numerous other venues, too, though I can't at the moment see in the BNA mention of one at Bolton - the nearest are Rochdale and Bootle.

Nevertheless, the Sunderland & Cheltenham catalogues should presumably have much same content as the others, and are well worth a look while Ian is unable to access the Bolton Museum archives.

'....look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Osmund Bullock,

Indeed I do. I managed to get to the National Art Library to check the catalogues last week, and they do give us quite a bit more information about Collier's trips to Upper Egypt, and the resulting artworks. Frustratingly our work seems not to be among those shown at Sunderland and Cheltenham in the touring exhibition of 1921-25; however, there is one possible in the Leicester Galleries catalogue of his landscapes in 1915. I have copious images of the pages of all the catalogues, but have not quite finished collating, cropping and resizing them to put into three coherent PDFs.

Despite that frustration - and there's a further one, in that I've failed to find when the exhibition was at Bolton (the online BNA has no Bolton newspapers after 1918) - I think they are worth posting, so bear with me. They provide important context, and help inform conclusions one can draw about our painting's probable date (amongst other things). I'm also writing up my suggestions as to what those should, or at least could be.

S. Elin Jones,

I have a feeling that there was another location for the travelling exhibition of his work. I meant to dig it out to help with your trip to the library, Osmund, but I am afraid work has been impossibly busy. I’ll have to look over the weekend. Thanks very much for having a look.

Can I also thank Mr Trumble, Curator of Archaeology, Egyptology and World Cultures at
Bolton Library and Museum Services for taking the time to answer the many questions I posted about this painting. It is much appreciated.

Osmund Bullock,

Elin, there were numerous venues that hosted the travelling exhibition, mainly in the north/north Midlands - at least 14 including Bolton. Those I've so far identified from the BNA (and there are very likely others missing as well as Bolton) were Sunderland (Dec 1921-Jan 1922), Hull (Feb-Mar '22), Rochdale (Jul-Aug 22), Blackpool (circa Sep 22), Warrington (from Oct 22), York (from Jan 23), Sheffield (Feb-Mar 23, possibly extended to late Apr)...then Burton-on-Trent (from Jan 24), Cheltenham (Apr-May 24), Harrogate (Jun-Jul 24), Plymouth (Jul-Aug 24), Bootle (to Apr 25), and Derby (Apr-Jun 25).

However, the only catalogues in the NAL seem to be those for Sunderland & Cheltenham.

These are the two relevant passages from Collier's ODNB entry by Jill Springall, as updated (presumably by her) to 13 September this year:

'His output was prolific; over 1100 pictures are recorded in his sitter book and of these over eight hundred are portraits.' [This item, dated 1874-1934, is in NPG and, by implication of the phrasing includes some 300 subjects that are not portraits: many will be his subject pictures, but perhaps landscape and topography too.]

'Collier had various one-man exhibitions during his lifetime: an exhibition of landscapes at the Leicester Galleries in 1915; a retrospective show at the Sunderland Art Gallery in 1922; another at the Museum Galleries, Haymarket, in 1931.'

The sources given for the entry include only two contemporary magazine articles about him and no more extensive 'post-mortem' study than obituaries:

W. H. Pollock, ‘The art of the Hon. John Collier’, Art Annual (1914)
W. H. Pollock, ‘John Collier’, Art Journal, new ser., 14 (1894), 65–9

Osmund Bullock,

That's interesting, Pieter, though clearly Ms Springall did not realise the true nature of the 1921-22 Sunderland exhibition. The 1915 Leicester Galleries landscapes show is one of those I'm working on - it included a painting titled 'Denderah', of which more shortly - but I ignored the one in 1931 as it was after the period that concerns us.

It may be worth checking the so-called sitter book at the NPG in case there are landscapes mentioned - I can't see it in the Heinz Archive catalogue but I know it's there, as Jacob checked it for something else nine months ago. However, a visit won't be possible before the New Year, and perhaps Ian Trumble will have gained access to the Bolton Museum archives by then.

Meanwhile those two Pollock articles could also be worth tracking down - perhaps on Archive.org, though I haven't time to check till later.

Jacob Simon,

Collier's sitter book in the form of a copy is in the NPG library catalogue rather than the archive catalogue. I'll try to look at it on Tuesday if I can.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks, Jacob. Collier's first visit to Upper Egypt was, it seems, in 1888 (rather than 1889 as I'd previously concluded). It's certainly worth checking any earlier landscapes that may appear, as the 'Denderah' painting mentioned above was exhibited in 1915, and Collier implies (writing in the Sunderland catalogue in 1921) that he only painted Egyptian scenes in 1888 and 1920 - and that is the only time Dendera is mentioned anywhere in the catalogues.

So there is a distinct possibility our work dates from that earlier visit, though of course he may have worked it up later from earlier sketches.

Osmund Bullock,

The rather hagiographic 1894 Art Journal article by Pollock is on Archive.org, but there's no mention of Egypt: tinyurl.com/muem65vv. His 1914 'The Art of the Hon. John Collier" - a 32-page monograph rather than a magazine article - is on Google Books, but snippet only: tinyurl.com/yc3mtxyz. However, a search within it for 'Egypt' or other likely associated terms (Philae, Luxor, Dendera[h], Edf[o]u, Thebes, temple, etc) draws a blank, so it's not going to help us either.

Jacob Simon,

Collier's sitter book, actually used for more than portraits, is in the NPG library in the form of a discoloured photocopy from many years ago. He does not seem to record works that were neither exhibited nor sold.

On page 120 for 1922 he has introduced into the chronological sequence a listing, "Pictures sold at Provincial Exhibitions", sold at the various venues for the touring exhibition referred to above. Under Bolton is an entry "Temple of Denderah", sold to "Corporation" for £31.10s.

On p.118 for 1921 he picks out two other small Egyptian subjects sold to a private individual when the exhibition was in Sunderland as having been painted in 1888.

He does not state when the "Temple of Dendarah" was painted.

The apparent general likelihood forming here is that the picture derives from Collier's Egypt visit of 1888; that it may (though not necessarily) have been shown as 'Denderah' at the Leicester Galleries in 1915 and was certainly in the Northern touring show of 1921-22.

This seems to have been the one - as Ian Trumble told us (23/03/2021 17:06) - that included a stop at the Mere Hall Art Gallery in Bolton, after which 'the curators of the Chadwick Museum [there] purchased it "to complement the displays of Egyptology in the museum". Collier's own note on 'Provincial Sales' on the tour now shows it cost them was 30 guineas (£31/10).

All that's missing (given the lack of post-1918 Bolton newspapers in BLNA reported by Osmund) is the exact date of the Mere Hall showing. Collier himself implied that 'he only painted Egyptian scenes in 1888 and 1920' (see Osmund @ 16/12/2023 18:11) and we only have evidence that he visited Dendera in 1888, none so far -I think- that he even made a second visit to Egypt at all. If he didn't, then the detailed nature of the picture itself -which was presumably the reason the Bolton curators bought it - suggests it is at least more likely to be close to 1888 even if not 'on the spot', rather than something done from sketches at home 32 years later in 1920.

Osmund Bullock,

I agree with almost all of that, Pieter, except that the tour lasted from Dec 1921 until at least June 1925 - and he definitely returned to Upper Egypt (but perhaps not Dendera) early in 1920. I'm in a tearing rush, and can't post more detail of that and other things just now; but I will do soon, I hope before the New Year.

Very best wishes for Christmas and 2024.

Osmund

Thanks Osmund: and to you.
Sorry, I missed your earlier 1920 visit ref, but Dendera's well south and it's perhaps more likely he saw new places in the first instance: if 'old favourites' then picture date may not be resoluble.

Happy New Year, Osmund. Do you think you might be able to post those final details soon please?

I have updated our record to John Collier, 'The Entrance Portico to the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, Upper Egypt' – other changes to be confirmed with Andrew Greg, since more information has appeared following his recommendation to close the discussion.

Osmund Bullock,

Here, finally, are the long-promised images (reassembled as PDFs) of the Collier exhibition catalogues held by the NAM – two (Sunderland & Cheltenham) are from the touring exhibition of 1921-25, and the others were in the 1915 landscape show at the Leicester Galleries. The Sunderland catalogue (which I worked on last) was in a very tightly-bound volume, and hard to photograph without fingers getting in the way; eventually I ran out of time, and the PDF shows only the Egyptian works. The other two catalogues show all the works that were listed; I’ve marked the Egyptian ones in red throughout.

I’ll finish writing up comments on the contents in the next few days, though much of it has already been covered here.

EDIT: I now realise I should have reduced the size of the images before combining them - the three PDFs are too large to post together, so I'll add them one at a time.

Osmund, thank you for the images. I will close this after we have your comments on the contents. The little bit of context about the pictures (cat. 1921-22, p.12) is interesting as well.

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