Journal of Social and Political
ISSN 2615-3718 (Online)
ISSN 2621-5675 (Print)
Published: 26 June 2020
Mount Sinai: Orientalist Images of the Mountain of God
Case Western Reserve University
Download Full-Text Pdf
Keywords: Egypt, Landscape Painting, Mount Sinai, Orientalism
The remote, stony peaks of the southern Sinai Peninsula played an inordinate role in history. They lie at a distance from the ancient overland trade routes that once linked Africa and Asia. However, one of these peaks, Mount Sinai, was critical to the development of the Abrahamic religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity. The Hebrew Bible says that God gave the Israelites their secular and spiritual law at Mount Sinai. Since the earliest centuries CE, Europeans exhibited special reverence for the site. Rome’s Empress Consort Helena commissioned a chapel at Mount Sinai and the Byzantine Emperor Justinian built a monastery around Saint Helena’s chapel. As international transportation improved in the nineteenth century, a steady stream of British and French explorers, intellectuals, and pilgrims poured into the Holy Land, Egypt, and Sinai. Some were artists, intent on seeing and recording historic locations. They had various motives: cultural curiosity, pecuniary reward, and spiritual quest. These artists left to posterity a fascinating visual record of Mount Sinai: the Mountain of Moses, the Mountain of God. This essay explores the life stories and motives of a select few of these artists and their relevant artworks. The purpose is to inform students and scholars about a significant cross-cultural intersection of religious history and art.
Alù, G., & Hill, S. (2018) The travelling eye: Reading the visual in travel narratives. Studies in Travel Writing, 22(1), 1-15.
Anderson, M. (2012). The development of British tourism in Egypt, 1815-1850. Journal of Tourism History, 4(3), 259-279.
Averil, C. (1999). [Eusebius] Life of Constantine (S. Hall, Trans.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Beecheno, F. (1889). E.T. Daniell: A memoir. Private printing.
Binyon, L. (1899). Edward Thomas Daniell, painter and etcher. The Dome, IV, 12.
Brett, B. (1984). A history of watercolor. New York: Excalibur Books.
Briggs, J. (2011). ‘A Martin Luther in painting’: Sir David Wilkie's unfinished Christ before Pilate. Visual Culture in Britain, 12(1), 33-56.
Burritt, A. (2020). Visualising Britain's Holy Land in the nineteenth century. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Campbell, T. (1837). The poetical works of Thomas Campbell. London: Moxon.
Codell, J. (2012). Transculturation in British art, 1770-1930. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.
Francis F. (1858). Egypt, Sinai, and Jerusalem: A series of twenty photographic views. London: James S. Virtue.
Galassi, P. (1981). Before photography: Painting and the invention of photography. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.
Handy, E. (1999). Reflections in a glass eye: Works from the International Center of Photography collection. New York: Bulfinch Press.
Hart, I. (2011). Imogen Hart on John Frederick Lewis's A Frank Encampment [video]. Retrieved from
Hegel, G. (1975). Aesthetics: Lectures on fine art (T. M. Knox, Trans.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hobbs, J. (1995). Mount Sinai. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Hunt, W. (1905). Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. New York: Macmillian & Company.
Hunt, P. (2020). Artist David Roberts and Near Eastern archaeology. Tutt Art. Retrieved from .
Hunter, F. (2004). Tourism and empire: The Thomas Cook & Son enterprise on the Nile, 1868–1914. Middle Eastern Studies, 40(5), 28–54.
James, E. (1988). The Franks. The peoples of Europe. Oxford and Cambridge: Basil Blackwell.
Karabell, Z. (2003). Parting the desert: The creation of the Suez Canal. New York: A. A. Knopf.
Khan, M. (2009, December 30) Muhammad's promise to Christians. Washington Post. Retrieved from .
Korte, B. (2000). English travel writing from pilgrimages to postcolonial explorations. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Lambourne, L. (1999). Victorian painting. London: Phaidon Press.
McGrane, B. (1989). Beyond anthropology. Society and the other. New York: Columbia University Press.
Meagher, J. (2004). Orientalism in nineteenth-century art. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
O'Neill, M. (2007). John Frederick Lewis, A Frank Encampment in the Desert of Mount Sinai, 1842. Yale Center for British Art. Retrieved from .
Nahas, G. (1984). The escape of the genie. A history of hashish throughout the ages. New York: Raven.
Osman, T. (2010). Egypt on the brink. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Owens, S. (2019). Cairene conversions – the adopted identities of John Frederick Lewis. Apollo: The International Art Magazine. Retrieved from .
Pratt, M. (1992). Imperial eyes. Travel writing and transculturation. London and New York: Routledge.
Riding, C. (2008). Travelers and sitters: The Orientalist portrait, pp. 48-76. In Tromans, N. The lure of the East: British Orientalist painting. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Roberts, D. (1855). The Holy Land: Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia. New York: Appleton &. Company.
Ruskin, J. (1903). The works of John Ruskin, 14. London: George Allen.
Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Vero.
Said, E. (1993). Culture and imperialism. London: Chatto & Windus.
Schaff, P. (1878). Through Bible lands: Notes of travel in Egypt, the desert, and Palestine. New York: American Tract Society.
Schneller, D. (1910). Durch die Wüste zum Sinai. Kommissionsverlag von H. G. Wallmann.
Stevens, M. (1984). The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse. London: Royal Academy of Arts.
Stewart, F. (1847). A journey to Damascus through Egypt, Nubia, Arabia Petraea, Palestine and Syria, 1. London: Henry Colburn.
Dumas, A. Travelling sketches in Egypt and Sinai; including a visit to Mount Horeb (W. Taylor, Trans.). London: John W. Parker.
Thackeray, W. (1846). Notes on a journey from Cornhill to grand Cairo. London.
Tromans, N. (2007). David Wilkie: The people's painter: Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Tromans, N. (2008). The lure of the East: British Orientalist painting. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Trombley, F. (2014). From Kastron to Qasr Nessana between Byzantium and the Umayyad Caliphate, ca. 602-689, pp. 181-224. In Aitkin, E., The Levant: Crossroads of late antiquity. Leiden: Brill.
Weeks, E. (2008). Cultures crossed: John Frederick Lewis and the art of orientalism, pp. 22-32. In Tromans, N., The lure of the East: British Orientalist painting. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Wilkie, D. (1843). Sir David Wilkie's sketches In Turkey, Syria & Egypt, 1840 & 1841. London: Graves and Warmsley.
Williams, C. (2001). John Frederick Lewis: Reflections of reality. Muqarnas, 18, pp. 227-243.
Walpole, J. (1997). Art and artists of the Norwich School. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club.