Lear arrived in Greece on 1 June 1848 and the following day reached Athens. He had originally thought to travel overland from Corfu and make a tour of Albania, but was invited by Sir Stratford and Lady Canning to accompany them to Turkey, via Athens. It was during this visit that Lear first met his lifelong friend and patron Charles Church, the owner of this drawing, as well as lot 120. Charles was in Athens with his uncle Sir Richard Church, who had been commander-in-chief of the Greek forces in the war of independence against the Ottoman Empire.
Whilst waiting to travel to Turkey, Lear and Church decided to undertake a tour of central Greece together, travelling as far as Thebes. The trip was highly eventful with Lear being thrown from his horse on the first day and damaging his shoulder, being bitten by an insect which made his leg swell and getting heat stroke. By the time they had reached Thebes, Lear was dangerously ill and had to be carried back to Athens ‘by 4 horses on an Indiarubber bed’ (Lady Strachey, ed., Letters of Edward Lear, London, 1907, p. 11).
On the day that he executed the present drawing, 23 June, he described in his diary the landscape he passed through. ‘Long descent by beautiful Ilex woods, a perfect garden shrubbery. Then deep vales of pine …The pass below is one of the most beautiful I ever saw — so stuffed with vegetation. First, the running river, then Oleander endless; above, huge planes, hung with clematis or creepers, or oaks, or taller abeles. … On the right of the pass were vast red rocks, here and there crowned with pines of great size, or more generally fringed all over with dwarf or young pine and arbutus… At the end of this valley is the little village of Achmèt Agà.'