- Museum number
Zelica; design for a steel-engraved vilgnette to Thomas Moore's 'Lalla Rookh', 'The Story of the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan', Zelica sits on a low chair with a lute in her hands, watched by a standing male figure on the right, behind them a fountain plays and three windows look out onto the moon and some palm trees
Grey and black wash and graphite
- Production date
- 1840 (circa)
Height: 112 millimetres
Width: 78 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Posterity has recorded George Cattermole as an illustrator, though during his life he was known for his highly detailed watercolours of medieval genre scenes (see 2017,7020.17). He originally trained as an architect and, whilst still in his teens, his name appeared as one of the illustrators of antiquarian John Britton’s ‘Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain’ (1807-26) and ‘Cathedral Antiquities of Great Britain’ (1814-35). Having decided that he did not wish to pursue architecture as a career, Cattermole travelled through Scotland in the 1830s sketching locations described by writer Walter Scott in his ‘Waverley’ novels. These sketches were later used as illustrations for various editions of the books. Indeed, in 1857 the ‘Art Journal’ commented that, ‘Scott and Cattermole may very properly be associated together as resuscitators of a buried world, though the artist only followed in the path marked out by the poet and romancer’. (Art Journal, p. 209) Today, Cattermole is perhaps best remembered as one of the original illustrator’s of Dicken’s work, having provided designs for ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ and ‘Barnaby Rudge’, though interestingly this fact was omitted from his obituaries.
The present drawing is the design for an illustration to appear alongside Thomas Moore’s ‘Lalla Rookh’, originally published in 1817. This prose poem follows Lalla Rookh, the daughter of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb as she travels to meet her betrothed, the King of Bukhara. This tale is told over four poems, each with their own sub-stories, the first of which is entitled ‘The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan’, for which this drawing was produced. This section includes the sad story of Zelica and her lover Azim, a classic pair of star-crossed lovers. Though the inscription on this drawing is given the title ‘Zelica’, the scene it portrays does not actually include the heroine of the story. Taken from part II of the poem, it shows Azim being serenaded in a palace by an un-named lady; the scene helps to establish the sense of longing and sadness that beauty and love have inspired in Azim prior to his being momentarily re-united with Zelica. This drawing gives us a very clear sense of Cattermole’s careful attention to small detail, which he used to great effect in his illustrations to evoke a specific atmosphere. What the ‘Spectator’ termed ‘his masterly treatment of accessories’, can be seen in the careful scalloping of the key-hole arches, the decoration of the dome, the gentle fronds of the palm tree and the carefully delineated drops of water in the fountain, all of which capture to perfection Moore’s richly-woven descriptive narrative (The Spectator, 31 May 1845, p. 523).
J.L. Roget, The History of the Old Watercolour Society, London, 1891, vol. I, pp. 495-498, vol. II, pp. 61-70.
‘British Artists, their style and character: George Cattermole’, The Art Journal, July 1857, pp. 209-211.
- Not on display
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Lalla Rookh
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number