Exterior view of the Amphitheatre, Nimes

1826Sir John HerschelEnglish, 1792–1871pencil on paper

Museum Purchase, Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund


Sir John Herschel was one of the most accomplished men of science in nineteenth-century Britain. He was especially famous as an astronomer, but also worked in math, chemistry, and botany. As a meticulous draftsman, he created drawings of botanical specimens, landscapes, and the built environment, often aided by the use of an optical device known as a camera lucida. This drawing depicts the ancient Roman amphitheater in Nimes, France. Built in the 1st or 2nd century CE, it is one of the best-preserved Roman ruins in France and was a frequent destination for artists and travelers on the Grand Tour including Thomas Jefferson, who visited Nimes in 1787.

—Frank H. Goodyear