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Oil painting - The Gate of Metawalea
  • The Gate of Metawalea
    Roberts, David RA, born 1796 - died 1864
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The Gate of Metawalea

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Egypt (made)

  • Date:

    1843 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Roberts, David RA, born 1796 - died 1864 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case WN

Object Type
Oil paintings illustrating the lands mentioned in the Bible became more popular in the first half of the 19th century. This was due in part to religious revivals in Britain, and partly to the increasing accessibility of Palestine and Egypt for artists and other visitors.

Subject Depicted
Egypt as a source of subjects for painters provided both the stupendous ruins of the Egypt of the Pharaohs and the splendid buildings of medieval Cairo. The district of Grand Cairo depicted here is Bab Zuwayla, one of the three main gates of Cairo, built in 1092 AD. This was also known locally as Bab Mutwalli (hence Roberts's title). The twin minarets above the gate are those of the Mosque of Sultan Mu'ayyad Shaykh, built just inside the gate between 1415 and 1421.

David Roberts spent one and half months working in Cairo, intending to balance his covering of Egypt's ancient temples with paintings of the country's Islamic architecture. His skill in dramatically rendering both the architecture and the lively street scene owes a lot to his early work for the theatre and opera. He first made his name in London in the 1820s as both a designer and painter of stage sets and panoramic backdrops at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and at Covent Garden.

Physical description

The Gate of Cairo, called Bab-el-Mutawellee 'The Gate of Metawalea', by David Roberts RA (British, 1796-1864); oil on panel; signed and dated 1843.

Place of Origin

Egypt (made)


1843 (made)


Roberts, David RA, born 1796 - died 1864 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

oil on panel

Marks and inscriptions

'David Roberts, RA 1843'
Signed and dated by the artist, lower left


Height: 76.1 cm, Width: 62.8 cm, Height: 102 cm framed, Width: 89 cm framed

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857. By David Roberts RA (born in Edinburgh, 1796, died in London, 1864)

Descriptive line

Oil painting entitled 'The Gate of Metawalea', depicting The Gate of Cairo, called Bab-el-Mutawellee, by David Roberts. British School, Egypt, 1843.

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

Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, p. 252

Labels and date

British Galleries:
David Roberts was one of a number of contemporary British painters of landscapes and architecture who travelled abroad in search of picturesque and exotic subjects. The East was Robert's greatest source of inspiration, and he visited Cairo in 1838-1839. The colourful and dramatic paintings by this celebrated artist reached a wide audience as many were reproduced in print. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

dated 1843


Oil paint; Panel


Oil painting


Images Online; Paintings; British Galleries; Scotland; Historic Cairo


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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