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Drawing - The Polyphemus Feast of the Abyssinians
  • The Polyphemus Feast of the Abyssinians
    Bruce, James
  • Enlarge image

The Polyphemus Feast of the Abyssinians

  • Object:


  • Date:

    ca. 1811 (drawn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bruce, James (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink and grey wash

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Shell International and the Friends of the V&A

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case SC, shelf 6


ca. 1811 (drawn)


Bruce, James (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink and grey wash

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed with title and dated 1770 [?]; inscribed on the back I had a small folio of them probably original drawing for the book Eating raw meat
The Polyphemus Feast of the title refers to the one-eyed giant of that name in Homer's Odyssey. He ate sheep (and some of the companions of Odysseus) raw. The Ethiopians that Bruce saw apparently ate raw meat at a feast.


Height: 14.1 cm, Width: 19.7 cm

Object history note

According to Rodney Searight: - 'Bt Holder, Nov, 1972 £14 the pr.'. [i.e. SD.182 & SD.183]

Historical context note

The drawings SD.182 and SD.183 relate to illustrations in an abridged one volume edition of James Bruce of Kinnaird, Travels Between the Years 1765 and 1773, through part of Africa, Syria, Egypt, and Arabia, into Abyssinia, to discover the source of the Nile..., J. & J.Cundee, 1812. This illustration faces p.249, etching, entitled `Abyssinians Feasting.'
They are probably among the original drawings for the `series of graphic illustrations', which the publishers had `designed and engraved expressly for their work.' (Preface p.v), and which may have been based on sketches by Bruce or by his travelling companion, the artist, Luigi Balugani. (See Searight Archive.) Bruce's Travels, first published in five volumes in 1790, was one of the earliest and most detailed accounts of a little known area of Africa and the Near East.

Descriptive line

Drawing, The Polyphemus Feast of the Abyssinians, about 1811, after James Bruce




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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