In December 1866 Lear wrote to Lady Waldegrave that he had made up his mind 'to go for a Nile and Palestine move' (E. Lear, Letter to Lady Waldegrave, December 11, 1866, in Lady Strachey, ed., Later Letters, London, 1911, p. 80) to see areas around the upper Nile that he had not been able to see on previous expeditions. The present watercolour was executed on 9 February of the following year and in March Lear wrote again to Lady Waldegrave to describe the places that he had been including 'wonderful...Aboo Simbel which took my breath away' (E. Lear, Letter to Lady Waldegrave, March 9, 1867, in V. Noakes, Selected Letters, London, 1988, pp. 208-209).
The twin temples at Abu Simbel in Egypt were carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharoah Ramesses II in the 13th Century BC, as a memorial to himself and his Queen Nefertari. The present watercolour shows the façade of the Greater Temple, guarded by four colossal statues of the Pharoah, which look out from the rock face over Lake Nasser.
For two other examples of Lear's work in Egypt see lots 48 and 53.