Cassas described his passion for imposing architecture in a letter to the French ambassador at Constantinople: ‘I draw and measure the principal monuments which are as beautiful as those in Rome, especially for their architectural purity, nobility and splendour’ (letter dated 21 July 1785, quoted in A. Gilet, Im banne der Sphinx, exhib. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours, and Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, 1994-1995, p. 159).
In this large-scale watercolour the artist depicts the ruins in Ephesus of one of the most important Greek archaeological sites in Asia Minor, the Gate of Persecution. The choice of subject shows Cassas’ preference for ruins with fabled allusions. In this work, three armed men seem to be guarding the Gate’s entrance while on the left a religious ritual involving a small child is performed by two Orthodox priests in the presence of a Greek family. The realistic details and precise rendering of features have made Cassas’ watercolours an important historical source.
A similar watercolour was sold by Bonhams, London, 20 May 2008, lot 16, in which the vegetation is less pronounced than in the present version.