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Watercolour - The Bab el Nasr. Cairo
  • The Bab el Nasr. Cairo
    Dillon, Frank RI, born 1823 - died 1909
  • Enlarge image

The Bab el Nasr. Cairo

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Cairo (painted)

  • Date:

    14/12/1869 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dillon, Frank RI, born 1823 - died 1909 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Water- and bodycolour, touched with white, on thick, textured

  • 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 11

Object Type: Paintings illustrating exotic architecture became more frequent in the 19th century. British architects studied outside Europe as they searched for ideas for a new building style. These traditional forms were also threatened with obliteration by `the march of progress' and drawings had to be made to record them before they were destroyed.
In his desire to preserve the exotic domestic architecture of Cairo, particularly the interiors, Dillon painted accurate pictures of them as a record and as a kind of advertisement for his campaign. He included their inhabitants in appropriate costume, to give scale and to make them more appealing.

People: Frank Dillon (1823-1909) was part of the circle that had surrounded Owen Jones. Like many of those design reformers he wished to encourage interest in the decorative art and architecture of other cultures. He was actively concerned with efforts to preserve Islamic monuments of Cairo. He also travelled in Portugal, Spain and Morocco, as well in Japan where he studied and painted traditional Japanese interiors.

Physical description

Watercolour drawing

Place of Origin

Cairo (painted)


14/12/1869 (painted)


Dillon, Frank RI, born 1823 - died 1909 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Water- and bodycolour, touched with white, on thick, textured

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed with title and dated Dec. 14. 1869


Height: 28.5 cm unframed, Width: 41 cm unframed

Object history note

According to Rodney Searight: - 'Mary Elizabeth Burnett, the artist's grand daughter; acquired via Holder from Christie's, 18.1.72 (196), £22.50.'

Historical context note

This or a version possibly The Babal el Nase, or Gate of Victory, Cairo, the Dudley Gallery, 1870 (494). An oil of the subject, exhibited at the Dudley Gallery, 1871 (321), was one of four painted for Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt: see C.E. Clement & L. Hutton, Artists of the Nineteenth Century and their Works, 1879, Vol.I, pp.208-9. A drawing of the same subject was in the artist's sale in 1911 (20).
Dillon exhibited several views of Cairo houses at the RA, RI and Dudley Gallery: see Searight Archive. SD329-333 derive from the third and fourth of Dillon's visits to Cairo, when he became especially interested in its Islamic architecture. He made a series of watercolours of three Mamluk style houses, the bayts of Radwan Bay (SD331), Shaykh al Sadat (SD332) and the Mufti, Shaykh al Mahdi, including eleven acquired by the South Kensington Museum from Bryan Donkin, the artist's son in law, in 1900 (VAM, DPD, 852 862 1900; see R.P's 84814). For further details of the houses, see B. Maury, A. Raymond, J. Revault & M. Zakariya, Palais et Maisons du Caire, Vol.I, Epoque Mamelouke, Vol.II, Epoque Ottomane, Paris, 1982 & 1983. See also B. Llewellyn, 'Frank Dillon and Victorian pictures of old Cairo houses', Ur, 3 1984, pp.3 10; Searight Archive.

Descriptive line

Frank Dillon, 'The Bab el Nasr, Cairo', watercolour, Cairo, Egypt, dated 14 December 1869

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

The Inspiration of Egypt, Its Influence on British Artists, Travellers and Designers, 1700-1900, cat. no. 356.




Watercolour drawing

Subjects depicted



Paintings; Historic Cairo


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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