19th century watercolour of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
19th century watercolour of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Attributed to MILES EDMUND COTMAN (1810-1858)

19th century watercolour of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

c. 1840 English

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Although signed J.S.Cotman, our opinion is this watercolour is principally the work of John Sell Cotman's eldest son, Miles Edmund Cotman (1810-1858), after a drawing taken on the spot by Captain Robert Moresby during his survey of the Red Sea or possibly Commander Robert Elliot R.N. (1790-1849) during his service in the Red Sea and India with the Bengal navy in the 1820s.

The publishers H. and R. Fisher commissioned a number of professional artists such as John Sell Cotman, Samuel Prout, William Purser, Samuel Austin and Clarkson Stanfield, to work up drawings by Robert Elliot for the 1834 publication of 'Views of India,China and from the shores of the Red Sea'. John Sell Cotman's engraved Indian view of ' Perawa, Malwa' was illustrated, along with two views of the Red Sea, ' Thubare' by Samuel Austin and 'El Wuish' by Clarkson Stanfield.

The same subject of the present watercolour ' Jeddah ' was used as part of a giant diorama entitled 'The Route of the Overland Mail to India' which was created in the early 1850s by the theatrical scene specialists, Thomas Grieve and William Telbin. In the diorama programme Grieve and Telbin acknowledge " Captain Robert Moresby (of the Indian Navy) for his sketches of the Red Sea, taken during his survey for the East India Company; Lieutenant Bellaires R.N. for his sketches in the Indian Ocean, Lieutenant-Colonel D'Aguilar for sketches of Ceylon; and Dr Moore for sketches of the Peninsula." At a time of increased interest in travel, Victorians flocked to The Gallery of Illustration in John Nash's old house, Regent Street, London, to witness the revolving diorama of topographical views representing the staging posts for the new overland postal route to India. An idea first promoted by the visionary Bengal naval officer Thomas Waghorn (1800-1858), which meant the round trip to India, through the Mediterranean and crossing overland by Cairo and Suez, only took 3 months, more than halving the time of the old route around Cape Horn.

The present watercolour depicts a Bombay Marine or Indian Naval brig stationed off Jeddah. During the 19th century Jeddah was an important site for shipping because a natural break in the reef running up the coast of Arabia allowed vessels to enter and collect precious water and provisions. The distinguished marine surveyor Captain Robert Moresby (1794-1854) of the East India Company's Bombay Marine and Indian Navy, who spent four years on the brig Palinurus charting the upper part of the Red Sea from 1829-1833, described it as " this heated funnel of reef-bound sea".

For centuries Jeddah had been an important landing point for pilgrims travelling to the Holy City of Mecca. An interesting reference to Islam in the present watercolour is the central figure of a merchant, or fisherman, adrift on a raft. He is seen kneeling towards Mecca giving Fajr prayer before the sun rises.

John Sell Cotman, as professor of drawing at King's College, London, was assisted by Miles Edmund who eventually succeeded him. A number of watercolours are now recognised as collaborations between father and son.
For further information on the artist please see ' Miles Edmund Cotman (1810-1858), John Sell Cotman's child, friend and companion. ' by Geoffrey R.Searle, first published 2014 by the Lasse Press, Norwich.
Good condition and colour
Height 8.50 inch (21.59 cm)
Width 12.75 inch (32.38 cm)
Watercolour on paper
Signed J.S.Cotman
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