Quarries of Syracuse

Edward Lear, 1847

WAG 982

About this object

Lear made this sketch with the intention of later making it into an oil painting in his studio. It was made in 1847 when he was travelling from Rome to the rest of Europe. Lear visited Syracuse (a historic city in Sicily) twice – firstly in 1842 and again in 1847. Lear liked quarries and described them as a 'ghostlike dance of grey forms.'

This watercolour is a good example of the annotations that Lear added to his work. He has repeated the word “figs” 4 times on it.

William Holman Hunt (1827 - 1910) helped Lear develop his painting technique, using the English countryside as a stimulus, and working his sketches into oil paintings back in his studio.

Object specifics

  • Other title(s)
  • Artist(s)
    Edward Lear (British: English, born:1812-05-12, died:1888-01-29)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Paper; Pencil; Sepia Ink; Watercolour
  • Measurements
    image: 35.4 cm x 50.3 cm
  • Physical description
    Landscape depicting the quarries of Syracuse, painted from a high vista looking down on the quarries. Extensively annotated by the artist.
  • Related people
    Art Exhibitions Bureau (Previous owner) ; Edward Lear (Artist/maker)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 982
  • Credit line
    Purchased by the Walker Art Gallery in 1943
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections

Explore related


  • Edward Lear: 1812 - 1888

    Royal Academy of Arts

    Author: Royal Academy of Arts
    Publisher: Royal Academy of Arts
    Date: 1985
    Description: Background Material for Secondary School Teachers to accompany exhibition 'Edward Lear: 1812 - 1888' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London [20/04/1985 - 14/07/1985]. Pack contains chronology, illustrations and introductory text about 'The Ornithological Work', 'Nonsense', 'Watercolours' and 'Oil Paintings'. Includes WAG 982, Edward Lear: 'Syracuse' [fig. 14] and list of other British collections holding works by Lear.


Previous owners

  • Art Exhibitions Bureau

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1943
    Disposal method: Purchased by the Walker Art Gallery in 1943


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: 12 June 1847
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Front; Lower right
  • Inscription text: Sinacusa Jackdaw Gardens
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location:
  • Inscription text: 34 Alone longwise
    Inscription method: Pencil
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: Bounlet Label F24759
    Inscription method: Label
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back
Object view = Fine Art
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