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James McBey

1883 - 1959

The First Sight of Jerusalem. Nebi Samwil (No.2) by James McBey

The First Sight of Jerusalem. Nebi Samwil (No.2)   1920

  Original etching.
Signed and numbered in ink.
Ref: Hardie 197
S 291 x 442 mm; P & I 201 x 352 mm
Excellent impression printed with carefully wiped plate tone, from the only edition of 70 signed proofs (78 in all).

In the summer of 1917 James McBey was appointed by the War Office to the post of Official Artist in Egypt. In this capacity he accompanied the Camel Corps and the troops throughout the desert war, witnessing the attack on Jelil and the liberation of both Jerusalem and Damascus.

One of the largest plates ever etched by James McBey, The First Sight of Jerusalem. Nebi Samwil (No.2) shows the scene at dawn on November 17th, 1917; "British troops who had sheltered for the night in an old Turkish trench on the ridge of Nebi Samwil obtain the first sight of Jerusalem, whose domes and minarets are seen faintly along the distant sky-line. Further off, in the centre, is the Mount of Olives.The smoke of an exploded shrapnel-shell hangs dark in the air, and another shell has burst down the ridge to the right." (M. Hardie's 1925 catalogue raisonné, no.197).

Dated in the plate 22 November 1917, James McBey sketched this image just prior to the liberation of Jerusalem on 9th December. This plate, like all of J.McBey’s desert subjects, was not worked up and completed until some years after the war was over. McBey had attempted a different version of this subject, seen from another angle, in his plate The First Sight of Jerusalem. Nebi Samwil (No.1) but, dissatisfied with the result, he abandoned the first plate after printing only seven trial proofs.

On cream laid paper, watermarked J Whatman 1820, with full margins and deckle edge. Very good original condition. Image surface excellent.