Karen Taylor Fine Art

Agent, Advisor and Dealer in British Art

William Page (British, 1794–1872)

Drawings from Greece

William Page

The west front of the Parthenon


Signed and inscribed l.r.: PARTHENON/ATHENS. W. PAGE, pen and brown ink over traces of graphite

65.5 x 94.8 cm

This meticulously observed drawing, made with the aid of a camera obscura, shows a close-up view of the western front of the Parthenon, with the sculpted frieze depicting Amazons fighting Greeks shown in detail. The two statues of the daughters of Kekrops, which stayed on the building until about 1980, can be seen on the pediment.

A large, finished watercolour of this view (measuring 66 x 101.5 cm and signed and dated1841), with carefully drawn architectural detail, was presumably based on the present drawing, and is now in the collection of the American School of Classical Studies, Gennadius Library, Athens. This is almost certainly Page’s signed and dated Royal Academy exhibit of 1841, no. 1106, The west front of the Parthenon.

The present drawing and catalogue no. 3 appear to be unique in Page’s known oeuvre, both for their large size and for being done on the spot.

William Page

The Parthenon, looking east


Pen and grey ink over graphite on two sheets of grey paper, joined

43.7 x 114.6 cm

This drawing, made with the aid of a camera obscura, shows the extent to which modern houses covered the Acropolis in 1819. Page commented on the juxtaposition of ancient and modern Athens in an informative inscription on the reverse of a drawing of the Acropolis in a private collection in Athens: A ramble though Athens in any direction, must be pursued, through a confused assemblage of well - built houses of recent construction, of miserable houses raised among the ruins of former habitations, and of ruined churches and houses . . . In the midst of the latter you may frequently observe some half-buried column or massive fragment of an antique wall or foundation thrown in to bolder relief by the mean and insignificant proportions of the remains. This anomalous [combination] of two epochs, of the past with the present, so widely different from both, is a peculiarity which will a wake the imagination of the least speculative. William Gell, the artist and antiquarian, noted that the weak mud brick construction of the houses caused seventeen houses to collapse during rain storms between 1805 and 1821.

In this drawing the Erectheion, the Ionic temple of Athena Polias, can be seen to the left, with the conical hill of Lykabettos to its left.

Simone Pomardi, Edward Dodwell’s companion in Greece in 1805–1806, drew a similar view from behind the Gate of the Propylaea, which is just behind the columns at the front of the present drawing.

William Page

The Parthenon, showing the mosque


Signed and inscribed l.r.: PARTHENON./ATHENS/W.PAGE, pen and brown ink over traces of graphite

63.5 x 97 cm

This drawing, made with the aid of a camera obscura, depicts the east end of the south side of the Parthenon and clearly shows the empty spaces left after the removal of the sculpted metopes in 1801 by Giovanni Battista Lusieri and his team, acting on the instructions of Lord Elgin. Edward Dodwell witnessed the removal of some of these metopes, which were fixed between the triglyphs, causing the destruction of the cornice which covered them, as it had to be thrown to the ground in order to lift them out. Most of the metopes on the south side depict Centaurs fighting Greeks, and the fifteen metopes in the British Museum today all come from here. The original position of eight of them is shown in this drawing and would have been of great interest to the British public.

The Parthenon was used as a powder store by the Ottomans, who held the Acropolis during its bombardment by the Venetians in 1687. The attack inflicted significant structural damage on the building, as recorded in this drawing. The small mosque was built in the ruins circa 1700, and a minaret was made from the old bell-tower. The mosque was demolished in 1840.

William Page

The Parthenon with the Erectheion


Inscribed u.l.: Parthenon. Athens-Erectheum, graphite

37.5 x 54.5 cm

This drawing, made with the aid of a camera obscura, clearly shows the extent of the rubble of the fallen parts of the Parthenon. The drawing appears to have been carefully reinforced, presumably by Page at a later date. A more worked-up watercolour of this view measuring 20.3 x 29.8 cm was in the collection of J. H. Money in 1972. That work is signed and inscribed ‘ATHENS’ in block capitals similar to those which the artist uses in catalogue nos. 1 and 3.

The Erectheion, which dates from the end of the fifth century BC, stands to the north of the Parthenon. Both temples were converted into Christian basilicas, thought to be in the seventh century AD, when the interiors were gutted.

William Page

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens


Inscribed u.l.: Temple of Jupiter Olympus Athens, graphite

38 x 52.5 cm

Construction of the Temple of Zeus Olympios was begun in the Doric order in the sixth century BC under the Peisistradid tyranny, but was discontinued after its fall. A new version in the Corinthian order was commenced by Antiochos IV of Syria (175–164 BC). When it was completed some 300 years or so later, around AD 131–2, in Hadrian’s reign, it was by far the largest building in Athens.

The brick structure upon the architrave of the two western columns of the middle range is supposed to have been built as an aerial retreat around 1209 by Nicholas de la Roche, the canon of Athens. It measured three feet high, twenty feet long and seven feet wide, and was removed circa 1870.

This drawing was made with the aid of a camera obscura. Page has left the fluting of the columns unfinished, although the capitals are carefully observed.

William Page

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens


Watercolour over graphite

38 x 52.7 cm

This drawing gives a good view of the aerial residence on top of the architrave of the two western columns of the middle range. It is very similar in style to catalogue nos. 7 and 11, and exhibits the clear washes of Page’s earlier style. The figures appear slightly elongated.

In 1843 Page exhibited a view of this temple at the Royal Academy (no. 1195).

Two large later views of the temple by Page, from different vantage points and measuring 66 x 101 cm and 63 x 97 cm, were sold at Sotheby’s in 1991.

Lady Ruthven may have made a copy of this drawing, which is now in the National Gallery of Scotland.

William Page

Thrasyllos monument from the west


Watercolour over traces of graphite

35.8 x 51.5 cm

This is drawn from the same vantage point as that used by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart in the 1750s and Dodwell and Pomardi in 1805. Dodwell wrote that the cave which Pausanias mentions in the rock above the theatre of Bacchus, is probably the same as that which is dedicated to the Holy Virgin of the Grotto [Panagia Spelaiotissa],
and which is enclosed by a modern wall, built between the pillars of the choragic monument of Thrasyllos the Decleian... It is a structure of Pentelic marble, simple, elegant, and highly finished. Its entire height is twenty-nine feet five inches ... it receives a dim and mysterious light, through two small apertures in the modern wall, by which a singular and picturesque effect is produced.

The monument was built in 320–319 BC to display a bronze tripod won in a victory for the men’s chorus, and was later converted into a Christian chapel. Standing on the southern slopes of the Acropolis above the theatre of Dionysos, it was still almost intact at the time of Page’s visit. The façade was badly damaged during the Greek War of Independence in the second siege of the Acropolis from August 1826 to June 1827.

Pausanias records that the interior showed Apollo and Artemis killing the children of Niobe. A marble sundial can be seen to the east of the building.

William Page

Aegina: Aphaia Temple from the southeast



38 x 55 cm
This drawing, made with aid of a camera obscura, shows the picturesque temple of Jupiter Panhellenius, which stands on Mount Panhellion and commands a view of the Saronic Gulf. The temple is dedicated to Aphaia, a goddess whose cult was found only at Aegina, and it is one of the loveliest late Archaic temples in Greece. In 1811 C. R. Cockerell and Baron Haller von Hallerstein excavated the site and found the fallen pedimental sculpture from the temple, dating from circa 510 to 490 BC. Seventeen of the statues that they excavated were acquired by Ludwig I of Bavaria, and are today in the Glyptothek in Munich.

Pomardi drew this view from the same spot on Mount Panhellion He and Dodwell evidently liked Aegina, and they produced nearly thirty drawings of the temple and its surroundings.

William Page

Temple of Poseidon at Sounion from the northwest


Inscribed u.r.: Cape Colonna, graphite on paper watermarked S & C WISE/1814

43.5 x 59.9 cm

The early watermark on the paper of this drawing, made with the aid of a camera obscura, provides a terminus a quo, although it seems unlikely that Page drew this before his first Royal Academy exhibit of 1816, as he would probably still have been studying at the RA Schools in 1814. It is more likely that it is a sheet of paper which he took with him when he left on his travels.

Cape Sounion, a promontory at the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula, surrounded by the sea on three sides, is one of the loveliest sites in Greece. The Doric temple, seen here from the north-northwest, is dated to circa 440 BC. Dodwell wrote that the fallen columns are scattered about below the temple, to which they form the richest foreground.

William Page

Temple of Apollo Didymaeus, Hierondas


Pen and brown ink over traces of graphite, on two sheets, joined

43 x 114 cm

The Temple of Apollo at Didyma (now Didim in Turkey), on the coast of Ionia, housed the most renowned oracle in the ancient world after Delphi and was the largest and most significant sanctuary on the territory of the city of Miletus. Destroyed by the Persians in 494 BC, the oracle was re-consecrated by Alexander the Great around 334 BC. A new peripteral temple, surrounded by a double file of Ionic columns, was started, although never finished.

The village of Hieronda, also known as Ura, was built on the site and was referred to and stayed at by Richard Chandler, who led an expedition for the Society of the Dilettanti in1764–6. Extensive excavations on the site, led initially by the British and French and now by the Germans, have revealed most of the temple and much of the sacred way.

The two standing columns in Page’s drawing, which was made with the aid of a camera obscura, can still be seen at the site today.

William Page

A camel train at the Temple of Cybele, Sardis


Inscribed verso: Temple of Cybele. Sardis, watercolour over traces of graphite on paper watermarked JWHATMAN TURKEY MILL 1828

36 x 56.5 cm

This is a view of the temple from the east, with the Sardis acropolis in the background.

Sardis was the capital of the Lydian Empire of the eighth century BC. It was a trading centre between the Greeks and the Persians, as the camel train in the drawing reflects, and became a Greek city state after 282 BC. The site is near the present-day village of Sart in the Manusa province of Turkey, about 45 miles east of Izmir. Cybele was the patron goddess of the city, and the temple is one of the earliest representations of the Ionic style.

This watercolour is very faithful to the original topography of Sardis, without the dramatisation of the landscape usually found in eighteenth and nineteenth century views of the site. The contours and proportions of the city’s acropolis are perfectly observed, including a small salient on the left that is still called the ‘flying towers’, as are those of the range of Tmolos mountains to the right in the distance. Also drawn accurately is the small hill just behind the temple on which the archaeologist H. C. Butler built the excavation house in 1911, and which is still prominent today.

By the time Page could have visited Sardis there were only three columns standing, as recorded by Cockerell who visited the site in 1812. Page may have copied the work of an earlier visitor in the eighteenth century, when Chandler records five standing columns. Cockerell records that the other two were blown up by a Greek who thought he might find gold in them.

William Page

Temple of Cybele, Sardis


Watercolour over traces of graphite

28.9 x 41.5 cm

This watercolour is drawn in the artist’s mature style.

Sardis in antiquity was the capital of the Lydian Empire and one of the great cities of Asia Minor. Today the site is near the village of Sart in western Turkey’s Manusa province. The early Lydian kingdom was an advanced centre of carpet manufacturing and dyeing. During the reign of Croesus, the last Lydian king, the secret of separating gold and silver was discovered, which made the city rich before it was conquered by the Persians in the mid-sixth century BC.

Cybele was the patron goddess of the city, and the temple, datable to the 6th century BC, is one of the earliest representations of the Ionic style.

William Page

The harbour baths, Ephesus


Watercolour over traces of graphite, inscribed verso: at Ephesus, possibly in a later hand

29.3 x 41.8 cm

The harbour baths are situated in front of the theatre, which can be seen to the left behind them in this drawing. The area, which was originally built in the period of the Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96), also had a gymnasium, a sports area and meeting rooms. The holes in the brick are typical and show where the marble revetment was fixed. A similar view by Page, of almost identical size, but with sketchier figures and from a slightly different vantage point, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

William Page

Ruins of the Amphitheatre at Pergamon


Inscribed u.r.: Ruins of [.....]/Pergamon, graphite

45.2 x 59.9 cm

Cockerell described the ampitheatre as an extraordinary building. It stands in a narrow valley astride of a river. The two sides of the valley make the two ends of the oval, and the middle stands upon arches under which the river runs. It is half a mile from Pergamon.

Near modern day Bergama in Turkey, Pergamon was a great centre of Greek culture and flourished under Eumenes II (197–159 BC), who was responsible for the construction of most of its main public buildings. It reached its heyday under Imperial Rome and grew hugely under Hadrian, with its sanctuary becoming one of the most important healing centres in the Roman world. Its library was second only to that of Alexandria.

In 1842 Page exhibited at the Royal Academy a watercolour entitled Ruins of the Amphitheatre at Pergamos, Asia Minor, no. 892, which may be presumed to be based upon the present drawing, which was made with the aid of a camera obscura.

Giovanni Battista Borra, the architect and artist who accompanied Robert Wood on his travels in Greece and the Levant in 1750–51, also drew this view.

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