Luigi Mayer (1755-1803) was a painter of German and Italian descent. He was born in Rome, was a pupil of well-known engraver J.B. Piranesi and worked for Ferdinand, King of Naples, creating paintings of the antiquities of Sicily. Later on, probably from 1776, he was in Istanbul and formed part of the circle of Sir. R. Ainslie, ambassador of Britain to the Sublime Gate (1776-1792). From then onwards, the ambassador financed Mayer's journeys so that the artist would draw and depict sights in the Ottoman empire and in particular the antiquities.
By the information provided in an anonymous account in manuscript, by a person who travelled with the artist for some time, and the subjects of Mayer's paintings, it is possible to recompose his itinerary, at least for 1792. Mayer travelled and made drawings of landscapes in Cyprus, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Caramania, Rhodes, Caria, Lycia and Samos. Some of his works from Ephesus and Corinth are known, but it is unclear when he visited those locations. Finaly, while accompanying Ainslie on his return trip to England, Mayer was able to paint landscapes in European Turkey, Bulgaria and Rumania.
Mayer dwing ancient monuments, but also added picturesque details from everyday life, local costume and expressions of social life. It is unknown where the original drawings by the artist are today. A number of his works formed part of the Ainslie Collection and were later given to the British Museum.
Mayer's works became very popular, were lithographed and circulated widely in consecutive editions from 1801 onwards. These editions, which were completed gradually, included paintings by Mayer representing various subjects and done in various engraving techniques, coupled with commentaries in three languages (English, French and German). The descriptions which accompany the illustration are excerpted from travel accounts of the same period.
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