- Museum number
Bay of Salamis and Piraeus from Xerxes' seat; view from hillside over the Bay of Salamis to Aegina and the coast of Argolis, with Phalerum and Piraeus Harbour l, and the shores of Salamis r, in the foreground three shepherds with sheep and goats among the rocks. 1880
Watercolour, strengthened with gum, over graphite
- Production date
Height: 409 millimetres
Width: 764 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The present drawing is one of three watercolours by William Simpson in the British Museum’s collection depicting archaeological sites in Asia Minor. The work presents a view of the bay of the island of Salamis and the port city of Piraeus northwest of Athens as seen from Mount Aigaleo in Attica, Greece. It was from this point where Xerxes, King of Persia, watched the battle of Salamis, in which an alliance of Greek city-states, including Athens and Sparta, fought off the invading Persian army in 480 BC. This watercolour was exhibited in 1878, in Colnaghi’s Gallery, Pall Mall, alongside other views depicting archaeological or historical sites in Greece and Asia Minor (see Tom Taylor, “Simpson’s Drawings in Asia Minor and Greece,” The Graphic, May 4, 1878, p. 446).
For more information about Simpson’s archaeological works, see the curatorial comment for his depiction of Schliemann’s excavation at Hissarlik, reg. no. 1900,0411.40. For a view of the excavation site of Mycenae, see reg. no. 1900,0411.39. Other works by this artist in the collection include Indian landscapes (see reg. no. 1900,0411.37) as well as depictions of the Crimean War (see reg. no. 1971,0515.10).
The following label was written by Kim Sloan for Places of the Mind, 2017:
'Simpson made his name as an artist reporter during the Crimean War in the 1850s. His works were exhibited widely and attracted the patronage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In the late 1870s he travelled to Greece and Asia Minor to record excavations of ancient sites. This spectacular panorama depicts the site of the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, when Xerxes, the King of Persia, watched the defeat of his invading army by an alliance of Athens, Sparta and other Greek city-states. Watercolour has been mixed with gum arabic to give it body.'
For further reference see Kim Sloan 'The Search for a sense of Place', Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950, London, 2017, pp.8-23.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1878 May, Colnaghi's Gallery, 'Simpson's Drawings in Asia Minor and Greece'
2017 23 Feb-27 Aug, London, BM, G90, Places of the Mind: British Landscape watercolours 1850-1950
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased from Maria Eliza Simpson for £100 together with 1900,0411.33 to 40.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number