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Watercolour - Crusaders Castle Graia Gulph of Akabah
  • Crusaders Castle Graia Gulph of Akabah
    Mathias, Maria Harriett née Rawstorne
  • Enlarge image

Crusaders Castle Graia Gulph of Akabah

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Syria (painted)

  • Date:

    1857 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mathias, Maria Harriett née Rawstorne (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour over pencil

  • 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 89, shelf SCX, box 10

Ayla, a site now in Jordan, near the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, was originally a Roman settlement. It was taken by the Muslims from Byzantine control. During the 12th century, Crusaders captured Ayla from the Muslims and Baldwin I of Jerusalem built a castle on Gazirat Faraun [Pharaoh’s Island] nearby in about 1115. When Saladin recaptured Aqaba in 1182, the castle became known as Saladin’s Castle. The fortifications were rebuilt by the Mamluk Sultan, Qansweh El-Ghuri (1501-1516) and then it came under Ottoman control.
Although Maria Harriett Matthias is categorised as an amateur artist, yet, as with many other so-called amateurs, this description does not do justice to her skill as a water colourist. Very little is known about her life or work, simply because she was a woman, and did not need to sell or exhibit her paintings. Typically, she is only recorded (in Burke’s Landed Gentry), because she married James Mathias (b.1823) of Catisfield Lodge, Fareham, Hampshire. According to a fragment of her diary, in 1856-7 Maria, with her husband and `Eddy’ (probably her brother-in-law, Edward Mathias), toured through Italy to Egypt and on through Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. Paintings or drawings of this particular castle are very rare, surprisingly so, given its architecture, location and history. This watercolour was part of an album of views, mainly of Egypt, made by Maria on her tour.

Physical description

Watercolour drawing

Place of Origin

Syria (painted)


1857 (painted)


Mathias, Maria Harriett née Rawstorne (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour over pencil

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed with title and dated May 11. 1857


Height: 25.3 cm, Width: 35.9 cm

Object history note

SD.628-632 were probably originally in an album containing watercolour views by the artist of her tour in Egypt, the Levant and Italy (and botanical studies), all inscribed and many dated between 1856-7, sold at Christie's 29.9.78 (160). SD.633-637 were contained in the same album, and were bought by The Fine Art Society, London, from whom bought by RGS.

Historical context note

The Island of Graia, near the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, is now known as Gazirat Faraun.
B. Llewellyn, `Petra and the Middle East by British Artists in the Collection of Rodney Searight, Esq.', The Connoisseur, June 1980, pp.125 & 128.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, `Crusaders Castle Graia Gulph of Akabah', 1857, by Maria Harriett Mathias (née Rawstorne)

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

Searight, Rodney and Scarce, Jennifer M., A Middle Eastern journey : artists on their travels from the collection of Rodney Searight, Talbot Rice Art Centre, 1980




Watercolour drawing




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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